12 Jan 2024, 13:45
Benjamin Wehrmann

Conservatives gear up for EU and German state elections, demand roll back of heating law

Passauer Neue Presse / Münchner Merkur

The leadership of Germany’s conservative opposition party Christian Democrats (CDU) plans to adopt a position paper that calls for the rolling back of central pieces of legislation decided by the current government coalition, including a hard-fought compromise on decarbonising the country’s heating sector, several media reported. In its planned “Heidelberg Declaration,” named after the location of a CDU party leadership meeting on 12 - 13 January, the conservatives under leader Friedrich Merz say they want to “abolish the heating law” and instead aim to achieve a climate neutral heating sector “through supporting, demanding, and enabling”, newspaper Passauer Neue Presse reported. At the same time, the CDU wants to expand emissions trading, without elaborating on the details, and couple the scheme “with a social compensation mechanism.” It also calls for a reform of rules governing Germany’s federal structure, modernisation measures and for reducing bureaucracy. It also aims to abolish the “citizen money” social security scheme introduced by chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government.

Mirroring demands of its Bavarian sister party Christian Socialists (CSU) from earlier this week, the CDU also aims to open a debate about re-entering nuclear power in Germany, which the conservatives in 2011 decided to phase out entirely. According to newspaper Münchner Merkur, the energy industry is highly sceptical about proposals to roll back the nuclear exit that was finalised in 2023. Kerstin Andreae, the head of industry lobby group BDEW, said the technology would be much too costly. Germany should instead focus on building hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants that serve as backup capacity in a system otherwise fully based on renewables. All three former nuclear power operators in the country rejected the option of re-entering the technology.

The planned declaration comes ahead of several important elections in 2024. In June, a new European Parliament will be elected and help form the next European Commission; while in September, the eastern German states of Thuringia, Brandenburg, and Saxony elect new state governments. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) currently leads in polls in all three states. The CDU declaration said that the public mood in Germany was at an unparalleled low point, which chancellor Scholz failed to address adequately. “We need a better government,” the conservatives said, arguing that it was ready to defend “the trust in our democratic and law-based state’s ability to act”.  

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