24 May 2023, 13:26
Sören Amelang

Coalition spat threatens to delay law for phaseout of fossil heating systems

Clean Energy Wire

The intensifying quarrel within the German government coalition is increasingly likely to delay a law designed to pave the way towards climate-friendly heating. Following objections from the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), and contrary to earlier government plans, the economy ministry’s draft law — which stipulates a de-facto ban on the installation of conventional gas and oil boilers from next year — will not be discussed in parliament this week. Economy and climate minister Robert Habeck (Greens) said an adoption of the law before the summer recess in July and August, previously agreed by the coalition, “will no longer be possible with the postponement.” According to media reports, this also increases the likelihood that the law cannot take effect at the start of next year as currently planned.

The delay in the draft law, a key piece of legislation to get the country on track for becoming climate neutral by 2045, intensified the conflict within the three-way government coalition between Greens, FDP, and Social Democrats (SPD). Habeck openly accused coalition partner FDP of a “breach of promise.” In response, the FDP said it had argued for weeks that the draft law needed fundamental changes and therefore does not provide a basis for parliamentary discussions – even though the party had agreed to it in the government cabinet in April. According to the current proposal only heating systems that run on at least 65 percent renewable energy can be newly installed from the start of 2024 whenever possible. The draft law is controversial due to the higher costs of climate-friendly heating systems such as heat pumps. 

Media commentators saw the coalition in a deep crisis and there is widespread criticism of all parties. "The coalition is tumbling into its deepest crisis," wrote Stefan Reinecke in tageszeitung (taz), and added that if the parties continue their dispute a "circle of destruction" is looming. In Münchener Merkur, Georg Anastasiadis wrote that the law has been flawed and that "it urgently needs to go back to the assembly hall." Zeit Online’s Katharina Schuler accused the FDP of exploiting public uncertainties about the transition to climate-friendly heating for its own political gain. “For this, [the party] accepts it will plunge the traffic light coalition into a medium government crisis, and risk compliance with the climate targets.” Stefan Braun called the FDP’s manoeuvre in Table Media “the greatest affront imaginable” within the government coalition. Nora Marie Zaremba said in climate and energy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background that the Greens might respond in kind by delaying FDP pet projects, for example new rules designed to speed up road constructions.  

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