Unclear responsibilities for climate could dwarf Germany’s new buildings ministry
Handelsblatt / Focus Online
The creation of a new buildings ministry by the next German government gives reason for hope that the country’s laggard sector will finally make more progress in emissions reduction, but hopes could also be crushed as the ministry is pushed aside by more powerful departments, Silke Kersting writes in business daily Handelsblatt. The ministry, which will be led by Social Democrat (SPD) Klara Geywitz, a ministerial newcomer, previously was a sub-department of the interior ministry, Kersting writes, adding that its exact tasks are still somewhat unclear since the novel climate and economy ministry led by Green Party politician Robert Habeck will absorb most of the competencies in climate policy. “Responsibility for energy policy in the buildings sector should go to the new buildings ministry,” said Lamia Messari-Becker, construction engineering researcher at the University of Siegen. “More climate action in the buildings sector is one of the main tasks in the next years. If energy projects and support policies continue to be decided in the economy ministry, the buildings ministry will instantly turn into a meaningless dwarf ministry,” she argued. This would be true not only for climate-related policies but also for the SPD’s election promise to build up to 400,000 – energy and resource efficient – new flats per year to alleviate pressure on Germany’s housing market, Messari-Becker added. The SPD’s coalition partner Free Democrats (FDP) already signaled that it will not easily let go of departments currently residing in its own ministries, Kersting writes. Apart from the climate and economy ministry, the new buildings ministry competes over rent regulation with the justice ministry, over digitalisation with the transport ministry and over construction support funds with the finance ministry.
In an article on Focus Online, Max Viessmann, CEO of heating company Viessmann, said 85 percent of Germany’s buildings are in need of energy-efficient refurbishment. “You don’t have to calculate a lot to understand that climate neutrality by 2045 will be a challenge,” he said.
The buildings sector accounts for roughly a third of Germany’s total CO2 emissions and has been slow to reduce its carbon footprint in the past years and failed to meet its 2020 reduction target. The outgoing government had launched an initiative to improve the sector’s emissions reduction record and private investments in energy efficiency and decarbonisation supported by state allowances already started to surge last year.