Climate protection: Municipalities are demanding a change in the Basic Law

climate change in Germany

View of the Rhine at low water in the summer of 2022 – Cologne Cathedral can be seen in the background. Municipalities are demanding more support to deal with the climate crisis.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin There are more than 10,000 communities in Germany – and they play a crucial role in curbing global warming. Whether in the provision of climate-friendly supply and transport infrastructure, in urban development or in the renovation of municipal housing stock: the municipalities have to do a lot to achieve the central climate protection goal of the federal government to make Germany greenhouse gas-neutral by 2045.

However, the resources there are clearly at odds with the tasks. There is a lack of staff, tight administrative procedures, legal foundations and sufficient financial resources.

In any case, a legal opinion presented on Tuesday by the lawyer Roda Verheyen on behalf of the Climate Alliance Germany and the environmental and development organization Germanwatch comes to this conclusion. In order to be able to finance municipal climate protection across the board and appropriately, an amendment to the Basic Law is necessary, according to the analysis.

Author Verheyen explains: In the existing system of division of tasks between the federal government, the federal states and the municipalities, secure and reliable financing of climate protection and adaptation is not guaranteed. The lawyer therefore calls for a kind of cooperation requirement between the federal and state governments and mixed financing of the tasks. This could be achieved by amending the Basic Law.

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Andreas Wolter, Mayor of Cologne and Chairman of the Climate Alliance, a network of more than 2000 cities in 25 European countries, demands accordingly: “We need a cross-party push to tackle this joint task.” The municipalities wanted to become drivers of social-ecological change, needed but greater federal and state support.

Climate protection and adaptation must become a joint task with the federal government

Wolter is pushing for a reaction from the legislature. He must now “urgently set out and change the Basic Law in such a way that climate protection and adaptation become a joint task for the federal, state and local governments,” says Wolter. This is the only way to “enable all of the almost 11,000 municipalities to do their part in overcoming the climate crisis”.

In another claim paper now submitted by the German Climate Alliance it says: “In order to implement the goals of the Federal Climate Protection Act, the federal and state governments are transferring legal obligations in these areas to the municipal level.” Current examples are the amendments to the laws to expand the renewable energies, the federal regulation for the introduction of comprehensive heating planning or the newly planned Energy Efficiency Act.

>> Also read here: From concrete islands to sponge cities – Germany’s municipalities have to arm themselves against heat and flash floods

The Climate Alliance points out that so far only a few pioneering municipalities have managed to carry out the tasks from their own funds, combined with funds from the federal and state governments. “The time of mumbling has to be over,” said lawyer Verheyen.

Barbara Metz, Managing Director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), demands that every municipality be obliged to draw up concepts for climate adaptation and for achieving climate neutrality, including greenhouse gas monitoring.

In recent years, however, an investment backlog of 159 billion euros has built up at municipal level. There is a lack of money to ensure municipal services of general interest. For climate neutrality in Germany, further investments worth billions in the energy, building, transport, industry and agriculture sectors are needed in the near future.

More: The federal government wants to present a crisis prevention strategy – by mid-2023

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