Coalition Committee: These are the most important traffic light decisions – politics
The paper, which is supposed to bring progress into the country, has 16 pages, a meaningful title and the most prominent political authors that the country currently has to offer. The coalition committee made up of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and the leaders of the parties agreed on a “modernization package for climate protection and planning acceleration” after around 30 hours of negotiations. But can the package really solve the problems of mobility on roads and rails and put an end to the dispute over gas heating? These are the most important decisions.
Climate Protection Act
In its marathon meeting, the traffic light coalition agreed to significantly relax the climate protection law. One no longer looks at the goals every year and no longer looks back, but forward to around the year 2030, said Finance Minister and FDP leader Christian Lindner in the evening. This leads to “more effective climate protection”. The green had previously rejected this softening for a long time. Green leader Ricarda Lang admitted on Tuesday evening that there were different positions here.
The federal government will continue to present its annual reports on the development of emissions. But if a sector misses its targets, the consequences are less severely punished. Sectors should be able to help each other in a different way than before. In addition, the government buys more time to achieve the goals. In the future, it will only have to become active if a sector fails to meet its forecast twice. The government then does not have to take countermeasures until the next annual report, but rather set the sector on course so that it achieves its goals at least by 2030. This solution is likely to cause protests among climate protectors. The reform should help Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) in particular, who recently failed to meet the legal targets with his sector.
replacement of heaters
The traffic light coalition wants to tackle the installation of more climate-friendly heating systems after a heated argument. The Green Party leader Lang announced that the building energy law should be reformed accordingly. For example, there should be social compensation for the replacement of heating systems. “One can say: No one is left in the lurch.” SPD leader Lars Klingbeil also emphasized the importance of social justice on this point.
According to the information, the cabinet wants to pass the corresponding draft law in April. FDP leader Christian Lindner said the proposals should now be “finalized”. Money should come from the climate and transformation fund. The principle of “technology freedom” should apply, meaning that gas heaters can continue to be used with green and blue hydrogen or biomass in the future. There will be no replacement obligation for existing fossil fuel-powered heating systems, only for newly installed heating systems. “And for certain age and income groups, we will automatically ensure that the requirements are not onerous or binding.” The decision paper contains no information on this.
A year ago, the coalition had actually agreed that from January 1, 2024, every newly installed heating system should be operated with 65 percent renewable energy. There were heated discussions about an initial draft law from the Economics and Building Ministries, which became known at the end of February.
For months, the coalition has also wanted to accelerate infrastructure projects in Germany. But they disagreed about whether only railway lines and bridges should be built faster or whether certain sections of the motorway should also be built. The Greens have so far categorically rejected a faster expansion of motorways, and thus less strict environmental protection tests. A compromise is now anchored in the decision paper. In addition to speeding up the construction of railways and bridges, priority should also be given to 144 motorway and federal road projects. There are “traffic jams and bottlenecks that severely affect the flow of traffic,” the paper says. The federal government will therefore “stipulate an outstanding public interest for a very limited number” of projects.
Overall, it is about a few hundred kilometers of highways that could be built with priority. The Ministry of Transport actually had a much longer list in mind. Most of these priority projects are in the greater Rhine-Ruhr area, in the Munich area and in the Rhine-Main region. However, it is not certain that the projects will be implemented in this way. According to the coalition decision, the respective federal states must agree.
The Greens emphasized on Tuesday that solar systems should be built along new motorways in the future. Green leader Lang announced that not a single kilometer of motorway would be built in Germany without open spaces being used to produce electricity.
It was only in the middle of the month that the Bundestag received a 33-page special report from the Federal Audit Office that couldn’t be surpassed in terms of clarity. The examiners draw a downright desolate picture of the situation of Deutsche Bahn. “DB AG is developing into a bottomless pit,” the paper concludes. Internally, the renovation requirement for the outdated rail network is now estimated at 89 billion euros. SPD, Greens and FDP make it clear in the decision paper that the railways will need a lot more money very quickly: 45 billion euros alone will be needed “to cover the investment needs” by 2027, they say. The coalition partners of the railways do not give a clear financial commitment. However, they are announcing a reform of the truck toll, which should bring in more revenue and help with rail expansion.
The traffic light coalition had already agreed in broad terms last year to increase the truck toll. According to the plans, a toll reform should come on January 1, 2024. These included the extension of the truck toll to vehicles over 3.5 tons and a stronger dependence on CO2 emissions. So far, the truck toll applies from 7.5 tons. Now the decision provides for the CO2 surcharge from next year – and a significant one at that. According to the decision paper, the surcharge should be 200 euros per tonne of CO2. The income, which has so far mainly benefited road traffic, should be able to flow more to other modes of transport such as rail.
public transport and electric cars
For frequent rail travellers, the future 49-euro ticket is to be integrated into the Bahncard 100 at no extra charge, so that it can also be used for local transport in all cities. Other points include better networking of modes of transport, for example for goods transport by rail and road. Short-term incentives are intended to boost the production and use of climate-neutral artificial fuels based on electricity (e-fuels). At the same time, the charging network for e-cars is to be further expanded. Gas stations are to be obliged to offer at least one fast charging point within five years.
Compensation for interventions in nature
So far, anyone who intervenes in nature has had to compensate, mostly through measures in the immediate vicinity. As a compensation, simple payments should also be possible in the future, which should then flow into “networked nature conservation”. A “land requirement law” is intended to create the basis for “defining a transnational biotope network as a priority area,” the paper says. A similar demand had recently been submitted by the heads of German environmental organizations. The change can help to actually do more for nature conservation – but also result in a kind of indulgence trade. The Federal Ministry for the Environment had so far reacted cautiously to the ideas. Now it’s time to implement the plan.