Accessibility links

Breaking News

Germany's Merkel Urges Climate Action in New Year Message

FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 18, 2019.
FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 18, 2019.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is telling Germans in her New Year message that "everything humanly possible" must be done to tackle climate change.

Merkel said that there is good reason to be confident about the 2020s in her annual televised message, the text of which was released ahead of its broadcast Tuesday. But she pointed to challenges such as the effect of digitization on people's jobs and, above all, climate change.

"The warming of our Earth is real. It is threatening. It and the crises arising from global warming were caused by humans," she said. "So we must do everything humanly possible to deal with this challenge for humanity. That is still possible."

Merkel said that was the principle behind a recently agreed German package of measures aimed at addressing climate change, which include a carbon dioxide pricing system for the transport and heating sectors and lowering value-added tax on long-distance rail tickets.

She acknowledged criticism both from people who are worried about being overburdened by the measures and from those who think they don't go far enough, but said they provide the "necessary framework."

"It's true that, at 65, I am at an age where I personally won't experience all the consequences of climate change that would arise if politicians didn't act," she said.

"It is our children and grandchildren who will have to live with the consequences of what we do or don't do today," Merkel added. "So I am putting all my energy into Germany making its contribution — ecologically, economically, socially — to getting a grip on climate change."

That is also a priority of the European Union's new executive Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen — a former German defense minister. Germany will hold the EU's rotating presidency in the second half of 2020.

"Europe must raise its voice more strongly in the world," Merkel said, pledging to work for that during the EU presidency. She pointed to planned meetings with Chinese and African leaders.

Merkel, Germany's leader since 2005, has said that her current fourth term as chancellor will be her last.

Protection against hatred

Unlike last year's, this New Year message contained no reference to infighting in the often-tense coalition government of her center-right Christian Democratic Union and the center-left Social Democrats. It remains uncertain whether the coalition will last until the end of the parliamentary term in 2021.

Merkel did, however, stress the need for authorities to protect local government officials and "all people in our country against hatred, hostility and violence, against racism and anti-Semitism."

This year saw the killing of a regional government official from Merkel's party, Walter Luebcke, who had vocally supported Merkel's welcoming stance toward refugees in 2015. The suspect is a far-right extremist.

And in October, a man tried to force his way into a synagogue in Halle on Judaism's holiest day, later killing two passers-by before being arrested. The suspect posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack.