Germany's Greens pitch climate ministry to boost faltering campaign


FILE PHOTO: Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of Germany's Green (Die Gruenen) party and top candidate for the upcoming national election, addresses a news conference on the follow-up of the flood disaster at the house of the Federal Press Conference (Bundespressekonferenz) in Berlin, Germany July 26, 2021. Stefanie Loos/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany's Greens presented an "emergency climate protection programme" on Tuesday, aiming to reset their national election campaign after squandering an early surge in opinion polls with a raft of mistakes.

The programme includes plans for a new Ministry for Climate Protection that would ensure no legislative project undermines a goal of limiting global warming under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The ministry would lead a government Climate Task Force that would convene every week for the first 100 days of the next government, and would have a veto right over other ministries should draft legislation not be compliant with the Paris accord.

The Greens candidate for chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, said last month's floods in Germany - the most devastating in 60 years - showed climate change is a pressing issue that the next government will need to tackle urgently.

"The climate crisis is not something abstract but is happening right here among us, and we must now do everything we can to get to grips with it," she told journalists, standing alongside Greens co-leader Robert Habeck.

The ecologists briefly surged in the polls to overtake Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc after they named Baerbock as their chancellor candidate in April, but they have since lost support.

A scandal over a Christmas bonus payment that Baerbock failed to declare to parliament, and a suggestion that Germany should arm Ukraine have damaged the Greens, who now trail the conservatives by 5-10 points.

Baerbock has also said that sexist scrutiny is holding her back.

Her best shot of becoming chancellor would be to head a coalition with the left-leaning Social Democrats and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP).

Habeck said that complying with the Paris Agreement is essential for the Greens' involvement in any government.

"As a government, as a government including the Greens, we will comply with the Paris Agreement. Period," he said.

Merkel, in power since 2005, plans to stand down after the Sept. 26 election.

Under the 10-point programme, the Greens would increase investment in climate protection by 15 billion euros ($17.8 billion) in the next federal budget, and do away with 10 billion euros of what they term "environmentally harmful subsidies".

They also want to bring forward the phase-out of coal-fired power generation to 2030 from 2038, and to accelerate the expansion of renewable energy in Germany, Europe's largest economy and most populous country.

"At the current pace, Germany would need another 56 years to get to 100 percent green electricity," the party said in a paper setting out the programme. "We do not have that time."

($1 = 0.8417 euros)

(Editing by Mike Harrison and Mark Heinrich)

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