Marathon Merkel government talks drag on as climate deal proves elusive

BERLIN (AFP) – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government struggled yesterday to secure a deal on a broad climate plan for Germany despite overnight talks dragging over 16 hours, as protesters rallied in the streets demanding change.

The plan, which covers a slew of measures from tackling emissions in the energy and industrial sectors, to incentives for zero-emission electric vehicles or public transport, was due to be unveiled yesterday.

But after a marathon session through the night, Merkel and other political leaders were still deadlocked.

Urging patience, Lars Klingbeil, general secretary of Merkel’s junior coalition partner the Social Democrats, said it was “better to negotiate for an extra hour and get an ambitious climate package in the end”.

As politicians haggled indoors, outside in the streets across Germany, protesters were on the way with banners and posters to join the biggest international wave of Fridays for Future climate strikes to date started by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg.

A major bridge in central Berlin was blocked off by demonstrators who strung red and white tape across the streets, hindering rush-hour traffic, while in the financial capital Frankfurt, sit-ins were underway.

After two blistering summers and thousands of youth joining school strikes week after week, climate has shot to the top of the political agenda in the European Union’s (EU) biggest economy.

For Merkel’s coalition government, the stakes are also rising.

With the economy already projected to slide into recession in the third quarter, balancing the interests of its crucial export industries while not alienating young voters with their green demands was proving to be a tough act.

Activists protest outside the Chancellery in Berlin. PHOTO: AFP