Climate policy: How green is the traffic light?

Heat transition, heating replacement, missed climate targets: The climate policy of the traffic light coalition is now getting down to business. It brings some things on the way – but will it be enough?

By Corinna Emundts,

All of this happened in the government district just in the same week: A green minister saying that we as a country are ten years too late for the heating transition in the building sector. A minister from the FDP who promotes the future of combustion cars. A government spokesman who gets muddled on the question of whether the FDP Minister of Transport has to present an immediate program for climate protection or not. In short: The situation is currently extremely confusing as to the ambition of the traffic light coalition in terms of climate policy. Is there only a minimum consensus being struggled for here?



At the same time, the federal government is currently not lacking in pressure from science on the subject: on Monday, the independent expert council for climate issues set up by the Merkel government made its concern clear: the goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 2030 could be missed. This warning to the Scholz government was issued for the second time in this legislature.

According to the report, the transport and building sectors again missed the target. The previous expansion in the field of heat pumps, renewable energy and electromobility is not sufficient. There will be no trend reversal in the transport sector by 2025, “unless we see stronger measures,” warned the chairman of the expert council, Hans-Martin Henning. He complained that politicians weren’t even attempting to “stabilize or limit activities”, but were assuming an increase in road freight traffic.

Small digs within the cabinet

According to the Climate Protection Act, the relevant departments must then deliver an immediate programme. The building minister and SPD politician Klara Geywitz is already working on the second one. “I abide by the law,” she said this week in a press conference that she held together with Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck on the heat transition. Undoubtedly a dig in the direction of Transport Minister and FDP politician Volker Wissing, who has not yet announced an emergency program.

“Of course, legal legal situations apply to everyone. And it was agreed, as you know, that the law will be amended. Until it is amended, the relevant laws apply,” said Economics Minister and Green politician Robert Habeck.

Similar tones came on the same day from the leadership of the SPD and Greens parliamentary groups in the Bundestag: According to this, Wissing would have to present an immediate program within three months with which excessive CO2 emissions in the transport sector can be reduced.

Discomfort among SPD and Greens

The coalition partners are interpreting their latest decision in the coalition committee very differently: In the 30-hour XXL meeting at the end of March, the traffic light coalition decided to relax the climate protection law: “Compliance with the climate protection goals should be checked in the future using a cross-sectoral and multi-year overall account,” means it in the decision paper. This allows one sector to make up for the mistakes of another, which should help Wissing in particular.

But the uneasiness about this can already be felt among the SPD and the Greens. In addition: A draft of this amended climate protection law, which would have to be developed under the leadership of Habeck, is not yet available. In the best case, it will be in the cabinet by early June, and the FDP seems to be counting on that. That would then be within the three-month period – but that was not firmly agreed.

Own priorities of the FDP leader

This example shows two current characteristics of the traffic light coalition: On the one hand, it often happens that what has been agreed is discussed again afterwards. On the other hand, it can be seen that the FDP, which has been badly hit in recent opinion polls and state elections, is increasingly trying to achieve a more classic profile that clearly sets it apart from red-green.

This was already noticeable in the spring with Wissing’s change campaign against the combustion engine planned by the EU Commission. Finance Minister Christian Lindner also campaigned again this week for the combustion engine technology “made in Germany” at a conference of family businesses in Berlin, “of course with climate-neutral fuel”. In the half-hour speech by the FDP leader, the term “climate protection” was completely missing – although the traffic light coalition has given priority to the climate-neutral restructuring of the economy and “lead market e-mobility”.

Instead, he often emphasized “Germany as a business location” – the FDP leader’s own priorities are clear. Apparently the time is over when Lindner spoke of renewables as “free energy” and a coalition of “possibility spaces” with a little more green affinity when it came to the traffic light.

Growing balancing act

The SPD Chancellor is supporting this growing balancing act between “FDP classic” and the pain of the Greens, who actually want to be the only ones responsible for climate policy in traffic lights – apparently calmly and stoically. For Habeck, the heating transition happened ten years too late, the FDP insists on “technology openness”.

From Scholz’s point of view, all three coalition partners have a chance in their differences, despite all their differences. He needs the FDP for the success of his coalition, he knows that. That’s why he leaves her legroom, even if some steps go beyond the coalition agreement.

And so he is also relaxed in view of the minutes of his cabinet member Lindner this week, who, despite his approval of Habeck and Geywitz’s heating amendment, immediately confirmed in writing that there was a need for change. According to Scholz, the agreed concept is very good. It will be discussed further. That much is certain.


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