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28 Jan 2022, 13:41
Benjamin Wehrmann

Conservatives announce legal measures against German govt’s climate action budget

Clean Energy Wire / Tagesspiegel

The new German government’s supplementary budget that includes the rededication of about 60 billion euros of credit authorisations from the country’s coronavirus recovery fund to finance climate action measures has been approved by parliament. The largest opposition party, the conservative CDU/CSU alliance, immediately announced it will take legal measures against the budget that it regards as a violation of the national “debt brake.” The conservatives have sought to stop the supplementary budget in parliament, arguing it would “shake the foundation” of the debt brake’s principles. CSU parliamentary group leader Alexander Dobrindt said the budget would have to be reviewed by the constitutional court, adding that “we expect the court to declare it unconstitutional,” newspaper Tagesspiegel reported. At a debate in parliament, Christoph Mayer of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) argued the previous conservative-led government transferred money to the climate fund itself in 2020. He said the funds would be clearly earmarked for climate measures and will be used quickly “to combine our crisis response, sustainability and planning for the future.” The conservatives countered that fighting the pandemic would only be a “pretext” to bypass the debt brake and fill the government’s coffers.

The so-called debt brake is a budgetary instrument that is meant to keep government lending in check. However, it has been temporarily suspended until 2023 to provide financial leeway for coping with the pandemic. The supplementary budget approved by new finance minister Christian Lindner (FDP) will shift credit authorisations worth some 60 billion euros from the core budget to the energy and climate fund (EKF), a special federal fund meant to finance the government’s ambitious emissions reduction and renewables expansion plans in the coming years. The government argues that climate action measures are also a legitimate response to the economic damage caused by the pandemic, as these would also incentivise private investment and create employment. The funding is set to also be used to ease the burden on power customers by replacing the renewables surcharge with state payments and improving the energy efficiency of buildings. In a landmark ruling in 2021, the constitutional court declared that climate action is a key duty of the government.

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