Quarrels over climate policy divide society

Quarrels over climate policy divide society

Smoking chimneys in Stuttgart. Many German homes still use fuel oil.Image Getty Images

The German government has started the summer recess with a strong accusation from the country’s highest court: acting undemocratic. On Wednesday evening, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe blocked a parliamentary vote on the controversial new “heating law” at eleven o’clock. The law should become one of the biggest steps in Germany’s intended transition towards a completely climate-neutral society in 2045: Climate change.

But after months of fierce political battles, the heating bill has put a spotlight on how… Climate changeThe way the government formulates it threatens to divide society into supporters and opponents. “This could lead to American states,” Books weekly woman.

About the author
Remko Andersen is Germany’s correspondent De Volkskrant. Lives in Berlin. As a correspondent for the Middle East, he was awarded the Lira Foreign Press Award for his work in Syria and Iraq.

The original heating code from 2024 should have stated that new heating systems are 65% climate neutral. This will apply to new buildings, but also to existing homes where the heating system needs to be replaced (many German homes still have a fuel oil boiler in the basement). In practice, this usually means the mandatory installation of an expensive heat pump. To partially offset these costs, the government promised a range of subsidies.

However, the government failed to articulate exactly how compensation would work, so it was drowned out almost immediately by the cacophony of protests rising from the left and the right. Chorus: The government in Berlin, alienated from the common people and hijacked by the Green Party, bankrupts hardworking Germans in its obsession with climate.

The right-wing conservative CDU, Angela Merkel’s party and now opposition leader, declared political war on De Groenen’s ruling party last week by officially classifying it as the “main opponent”. The largely far-right Alternative for Germany party has reached an all-time high in the polls in recent weeks: one in five Germans now says they want to vote for the party. Political scientists actually call it the “heat pump bonus”.

The big question in this debate now is: Who will pay for it all? Heat pump, transition to a climate neutral community, everything has to give way? What will happen to our economy and our prosperity, and what will happen to my wallet?

The new law thus also became a litmus test of the German government’s ability to create – and maintain – support for its ambitious climate policy.


“Heat pump portal” will undoubtedly be taught in the general management program. Green economy minister Robert Habeck, the architect of the law, first brushed off the criticism, giving critics the impression they were on a crusade. Then the law was significantly weakened: municipalities must develop a climate-neutral community heat plan, often using geothermal heat, which they are required to do until 2028. The semi-mandatory heat pump will only apply to households that do not wish to participate in the turnkey option once that is done.

Climate organizations were furious at the delay. Still opponents of the law are not satisfied. And citizens are especially worried. About the lack of clear communication, about the increasingly harsh tone in the political debate, about the fact that things were difficult even inside the government – the small center-right Free Democratic Alliance (FDP) rejected the plans of its coalition partners as usual. . Bottom line, the government coalition – the Greens in the lead – has caused such a political fiasco without benefiting the climate much in the short term.

Even within our ranks, criticism is growing, especially within the Social Democratic Party of government leader Schulz. This weekend, at least three prominent SPD prime ministers from the federal states, which have their own governments in Germany, complained that the national government in Berlin was making communications a mess. ‘This harms climate policy and favors right-wing populists’ Criticism in a nutshell Manuela Schwezig (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), Dietmar Wodecke (Brandenburg) and Stefan Weil (Lower Saxony).

To top it all off, the German Constitutional Court, the supreme guardian of the country’s democratic legal order, is now saying that the government is in fact acting undemocratic. By trying with all its might to pass the law to Parliament before the summer recess, the opposition lacks the opportunity to organize sufficient participation and opposition. The judges say: “Parliamentarians have the right not only to vote, but also to consider matters,” so the planned vote should not take place.

Communication and transparency

It takes determination to quickly implement the historical social and economic upheaval, as the German government is trying to do. But, says Andreas Esch, an economist at the think tank Bertelsmann Stiftung, it also requires effective communication.

And precisely because climate measures are so far-reaching, it is crucial that the government makes it clear from the outset how it will deal with the people affected by it. This not only places higher demands on the legislative process, but also on political action. There are many actions coming our way that can lead to discord, and a growing part of the population is losing faith in politics.

Satisfaction with Ampel’s so-called coalition, the red-yellow-green coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), has fallen to a record low: only 23 percent of voters are satisfied with the coalition, compared to 20 percent last month. At the same time, three-quarters of Germans are concerned about social relationships. A final statistic shows that German society is divided by the heat law: 45 percent think it’s going well or it doesn’t go far enough, while 45 percent think it goes too far (10 percent skip the question).

On the last day before the summer recess, things were thus extraordinarily violent in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, on Friday. CDU leader Frederik Merz asked the SPD to remain silent while he spoke.

Meanwhile, it seems that a new political crisis is about to occur. According to Mears, the government is often guilty of greatly shortening parliamentary procedures in order to pass its own laws. “You have turned this parliament into a place to refuse debate and move forward,” said the opposition leader.

A new hearing on the heating law is scheduled for September.

What is Klimawende?

Germany’s Klimawende envisions the transition to a completely climate-neutral society in 2045, five years ahead of the European Union as a whole. The current government, upon assuming power at the end of 2021, announced that this aspiration is its main goal. Germany also wants to set an example and move the rest of Europe. Measures include:

– In 2030, 80% of electricity consumption in Germany must consist of renewable energy.

– In 2030, offshore wind turbines should produce 30 gigawatts, enough for 30 million households. 2035: 40 GW. 2045: 70 GW. Also, 2% of the land area is dedicated to wind turbines.

– In 2030, solar energy production should be increased by 200 GW, and to this end, solar panels will be installed “on all roofs that can bear it,” according to the alliance agreement.

– In 2030, emissions must be reduced by 65 percent compared to 1990 (Germany is behind schedule, the reduction in 2022 was 2 percent and should be 6 percent annually from 2023). Coal-fired power plants will “ideally” shut down from 2030.

New oil and gas heating systems for buildings will be banned from 2024, except for gas systems that can be converted to hydrogen.

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