German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated Tuesday that she would like to join other European countries in aiming to eliminate virtually all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but stressed the goal needs to be achievable.
Merkel initially refused to join the initiative put forward last week by French President Emmanuel Macron and eight other EU countries, despite domestic pressure to do so.
Speaking at an international climate change meeting in Berlin, Merkel said she’s now intending to discuss the idea at a Cabinet sitting at the end of May.
“The discussion is not about whether we can achieve it, but about how we can achieve it,” she said. “If we can find a sensible answer, then we can join the initiative.”
Germany has lagged behind other European countries, including France and Britain, in its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Merkel noted that Germany will miss its own target for reductions by 2020.
As a country that took in more than 1 million migrants fleeing war and poverty elsewhere in the world in recent years, Merkel suggested Germany has a particular interest in minimizing global warming.
“If we fail to protect the climate, then in view of the growing world population, increasing conflicts are inevitable because resources are becoming scarce,” she said.
Merkel said rallies staged by students protesting their leaders’ inaction on climate change showed how important the issue has become for young people.
“That puts pressure on politicians around the world,” she said.
Merkel, who was Germany’s environment minister from 1994 to 1998, said rich countries that are responsible for most man-made emissions have a particular responsibility to tackle climate change and doing so will pay off in the end.
“The question isn’t what will it cost us to reach these goals, the question is rather: how much more would it cost us if we don’t do anything.”
Her comments appeared directed at those leaders who have refused to join international efforts to fight climate change, most notably U.S. President Donald Trump.
Announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate accord two years ago, Trump cited the “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country” and warned millions of American jobs could be lost as a result.
The U.S. sent a small technical delegation to the talks in Berlin and is expected to attend this year’s U.N. climate summit in December, hosted by Chile.
Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s environment minister, told reporters she hoped American cities, states and private companies that are committed to climate action would also join the talks in Santiago.