German governing parties agree on energy, climate measures
BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s three ruling parties announced Tuesday that they have an agreement on a series of energy and climate policies following weeks of infighting that threatened to paralyze the government.
Senior members of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats and two smaller parties, the environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats, said three days of closed-doors talks had resulted in a deal to ensure “nobody is left behind” in the drive to replace home heating systems with greener alternatives.
The issue had prompted fierce bickering among the parties last week when draft plans were leaked that would have effectively banned the installation of conventional oil and gas heaters starting next year.
The Green party argues that fossil fuel furnaces need to be phased out as soon as possible because they contribute to climate change and cement Germany’s dependence on foreign energy imports. The Free Democrats and Scholz’s Social Democrats objected, worrying such a change would anger voters because installing heat pumps requires a much bigger initial investment, though the operating costs are lower.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner, who leads the Free Democrats, said parties had agreed to provide subsidies for the heater replacements and continue to permit the installation of fossil fuel furnaces provided they are capable of later switching to cleaner alternatives such as hydrogen or biomass. Low-income groups and elderly homeowners will get additional support, he said.
Lindner also touted a major reform of the way Germany requires different sectors of the economy to contribute to the country’s binding climate goals. In future the targets will be reviewed over a longer period and lagging sectors, such as transport and housing, will be able to emit more greenhouse gas if the overall pace of cuts is maintained.
A similar approach will be taken when it comes to major construction projects, allowing ecological compensation in the form of money rather than land, as is currently the case.
In return, the Greens secured a commitment that solar panels will be built along all new highways. The party’s co-leader, Ricarda Lang, also announced an increase in highway tolls for heavy goods vehicles, with 80% of the revenue going toward improving Germany’s rail network.
Earlier Tuesday, lawmaker Alexander Dobrindt of the opposition Christian Social Union had mocked the government’s disunity, telling reporters: “It’s quite possible that this government continues to exist, but it’s not able to govern.”
Scholz dismissed such criticism, insisting the talks at his chancellery would produce “very, very, very good results.”
The 64-year-old said the overarching goal was to fulfill the government’s 2021 pledge to accelerate Germany’s transformation toward a greener, more digital economy.
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