BERLIN (AP) -- Germany's environment minister on Monday backed a European proposal to virtually eliminate man-made greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, deepening divisions within the German government over how to tackle climate change.
French President Emmanuel Macron and eight either EU countries pitched the plan at a summit of European leaders last week, but Germany was a notable holdout.
"I don't think this decision is final," said Environment Minister Svenja Schulze of the center-left Social Democrats, the junior partners in Merkel's government. "I think we should talk about it again. Because I think it's very sensible to stand alongside France and work to say at the EU-level that we want to implement Paris."
The 2015 Paris climate accord, approved by almost all countries around the world, set a target of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times. Scientists say this is only possible if emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are drastically reduced in the coming decades.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a climate change meeting of 35 countries in Berlin, Schulze also favored the introduction of a carbon tax to discourage fossil fuel use.
The leader of Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union party, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has instead favored expanding an EU-wide carbon trading system.
A recent poll for public broadcaster ZDF found environment topped immigration as the issue Germans are most concerned about.
But the survey of 1,357 phone respondents, conducted May 7-9, also found 61% oppose a carbon tax on fossil fuels, even if other taxes are cut. Only 35% were in favor, according to the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen polling agency.
Despite its much-vaunted plan for an "energy transition" away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to renewable power sources, Germany has struggled to lower its emissions in recent years, particularly in the area of transportation.
Germany is set to miss its reduction target for 2020 and under EU rules it could be forced to buy billions of euros (dollars) worth of carbon credits from other countries starting in 2021. A report published Monday by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a London-based research firm, listed 43 cities around the world that are leading on environmental action. None of them are in Germany.
Schulze said she wants Cabinet to pass a "strong" climate law this year.
"This is about big investment decisions that affect all of society, each and every one but also industry," she said. "We need certainty about where the journey is going.