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Schäuble Warns Green Energy Policies Harming German Economy

Peter Spiegel, Financial Times

Germany’s powerful finance minister said on Tuesday that Berlin may have gone too far in its attempts to protect the environment, saying his government must now “rebalance” its policies to ensure environmental regulations do not cost jobs.

Wolfgang Schäuble took issue with claims that the “green economy” will be a major driver of employment, saying Berlin’s decision two years ago to shutter its nuclear power plants and emphasise renewables needed to be re-examined.

“We did it too good and now we have to correct because otherwise we have an increasing of energy costs which will harm jobs in Germany in a serious way in the medium turn,” Mr Schäuble said at a forum in Brussels, where he was attending a regular meeting of EU finance ministers. “Therefore, we have to rebalance.”

Mr Schäuble’s remarks come amid rising concerns in European industry that the EU is losing competitiveness internationally because of its rising energy costs, particularly in comparison to the US, where exploitation of shale gas has been hailed as a source of inexpensive energy that could help reindustrialise the US economy.

Last week, the European Commission unveiled a new energy strategy for 2030 that disappointed environmentalists because it lacked binding national targets on how much power EU countries would have to generate from renewable sources.

Critics charged Brussels with putting economic growth ahead of climate change concerns; the EU has long been the strongest advocate internationally for tough environmental standards and a retreat by Europe on the issue could have major implications for the global debate.

Mr Schäuble’s cooling on renewables comes despite the fact Germany was the strongest voice calling for binding targets for such energy sources ahead of the European Commission’s decision last week. Sigmar Gabriel, the economy and energy minister, and Barbara Hendricks, energy minister, both publicly called for such mandates in the run-up to the decision.

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