BERLIN (Reuters) - Germans will have to change their lifestyles, cutting back on holidays and paying a real price to master the challenge of climate change, the speaker of Germany’s parliament Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Tuesday.
In a Christmas interview, Schaeuble, a conservative who as finance minister during the euro zone debt crisis famously urged austerity and fiscal discipline on poorer southern countries, said climate change would demand sacrifices of Germans.
“We will have to change our lives,” Schaeuble told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper. “It’s certainly a great pleasure to fly off to the Maldives or visit Venice. But in future we will have to indulge that pleasure more sparingly.”
Popular in Germany for presiding over years of economic growth, Schaueble became a bete noire for opponents like then Greek Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis, who accused him of imposing needless austerity on his recession-struck country.
Climate change has surged up the agenda of the German government, led by Schaueble’s conservative ally, Chancellor Angela Merkel, since it took office in 2017, helped by several extremely hot summers and also Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement.
A climate protection package agreed earlier this year envisages sharp cuts to emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide over coming decades, as well as investment in railways, energy-efficient housing and electric vehicles.
But Schaueble said that, even if the package will seek to minimise the direct cost to consumers, Germans will all pay a price for the change.
“We can manage the switch to a climate-aware life,” he said. “We have mastered far greater challenges in history. But it would be wrong to present the climate package as an act of generosity: climate protection is not free.”
Heating and fuel would become more expensive, he said, even if lower electricity prices and cheaper rail tickets would offset some of the increase.
Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Hugh Lawson