10 Jan 2022, 13:34
Benjamin Wehrmann

Auditors say German finance minister's climate funding booster 'constitutionally questionable'

dpa / n-tv

Germany's Court of Auditors has criticised the supplementary budget presented by finance minister Christian Lindner, which rededicates billions of euros reserved for pandemic response measures to the country’s energy and climate fund, news agency dpa reports in an article carried by news website n-tv. The auditors said the reallocation of funds is “constitutionally questionable”, as the budget proposal “fails to coherently explain” how recovery measures amid the coronavirus pandemic are linked to climate and energy expenditures. Lindner plans to rededicate credit worth 60 billion euros authorised in 2021 to curb the COVID-19 crisis, but never used, to finance the new government’s ambitious climate and energy plans. The auditors argue that global warming is not a sudden and unforeseen development that requires emergency funding, but rather a permanent and systemic challenge that has to be addressed with regular budgetary measures. Using emergency credit could only be a means of last resort, once all other options have failed. Lindner, who is head of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), plans to use the funds from 2021 in order to be able to abide by the country’s so-called debt brake in the coming years, but still finance climate action measures. The budgetary instrument is meant to keep government lending in check but has been temporarily suspended during the pandemic. Friedrich Merz, the designated new leader of the conservative opposition CDU party, said in December that the budget proposed by Lindner would be “the exact opposite of what the FDP has promised” and “one of the riskiest moves we’ve seen in years”.

The FDP leader has to strike a delicate balance between enabling the new government coalition’s emission reduction plans and maintaining his party’s reputation as an advocate of a small-state approach and opponent of public spending. The coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party has promised to bring the country on a path compatible with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree Celsius global warming limit, an endeavour that will require enormous investments in clean energy and mobility infrastructure.

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