German SPD targets climate-neutral economy in election campaign

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrats on Sunday put a target to achieve a carbon neutral economy by 2050 at the centre of their economic platform for federal elections in September, seeking to win back support from the ecologist Greens.

The centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) is trying to sharpen its profile after sharing power with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative alliance for three of her four terms in office.

The power-sharing arrangement has blurred the differences between the parties and since the last federal election in 2017, the Greens have overtaken the SPD to become the second largest force in German politics.

Germany formally adopted a target in 2016 to become largely greenhouse gas-neutral by 2050, but the SPD is putting it at the top of its agenda in a bid to make it more likely to be reached.

In an effort to get going early with its election campaign, the SPD appointed Finance Minister Olaf Scholz last summer as its candidate for chancellor and he said on Sunday the party was in the middle of a race to catch up.

“We started early because we know that we have to make up ground,” Scholz said at the beginning of a meeting of SPD leaders.

Opinion polls put support for the SPD at around 15%, compared with as much as 37% for Merkel’s conservative alliance and some 20% for the Greens.

Speaking of a “gigantic task” to stop man-made climate change, Scholz said: “If we want to be CO2 neutral in 2050, it will require the greatest technological revolution, the greatest period of innovation in our country imaginable … But it is possible.”

Earlier, he vowed to work with Merkel’s conservatives in their coalition government until the last day before the Sept. 26 election, and not to campaign “with foaming mouths”.

Scholz made the pledge a day after he said he was angry more COVID-19 vaccines were not ordered last year.

The SPD only reluctantly entered into coalition with Merkel in 2018 after her conservative alliance’s talks with liberals and Greens collapsed, and the government was often shaky until the coronavirus crisis forced ministers to pull together.

(Reporting by Holger Hansen and Paul Carrel; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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