Three German chancellor candidates debate on TV

Three contenders to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor faced off in a televised debate in the run-up to next month's national election. Among the major issues were climate change, Afghanistan and the coronavirus pandemic.

After 16 years in office, Merkel is set to retire from politics after German voters elect representatives for parliament on September 26.

The candidate of Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union, Armin Laschet, Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democratic Party and Annalena Baerbock of the Greens took part in the debate on Sunday.

Christian Democrats and Social Democrats are in Merkel's coalition government.

As an environmentalist, Baerbock criticized the government for failing to address the pressing issue of climate change. Germany was hit by massive floods in July.

Laschet responded that carbon dioxide emissions should be reduced by pushing true structural changes.

Scholz noted the need to consider the impact that steps to stem climate change may have on industries.

He made his party's difference from its coalition partner clear by saying that Merkel's Union bloc has long refused to increase solar and wind power generation.

The September election is expected to be a close contest. A poll taken just after the debate showed 36 percent thought Scholz won, against 30 percent for Baerbock and 25 percent for Laschet.