4 / 8: A checklist on German climate policy

In the uncertain time when noone is quite sure whether their governments, politicians and parties will be more or less Obama-esque in their approach to solving climate change in a severe economic downturn. So a look back at some of the past months’ highlights in German climate change policy over the past few months:

1) Poznan, 0,5/1: No comment about the overall progress of a post-kyoto agreement, but Germany was not notable for heroic leading from the front. A subdued performance.

2) EU Climate agreement: 1,5/3) Germany agreed to auction all permits for emissions from energy production, kudos. But on permits for energy-intensive industry politicians faltered to industry pressure, and the renegotiation and eventual relaxation of the timeline for reducing fleet emissions a clear sign that there are worries about the German car industry.

3) The fiscal stimulus package: 1/3) Closer at home, last month’s fiscal stimulus package disappointed those that had hoped for a green new deal. Among others, the Green party is dissatisfied with the environmental aspects of the package, and, because of Germany’s finely balanced political landscape is now in a position to block the package’s passage through parliament by virtue of membership in Hamburg’s unique black-green coalitio, and threatening to do so.

Their grievances centre on a new CO² based car tax regime, after a first draft would have halved tax for the most polluting SUVs. With last minute changes the new regime will not change existing rates much, with exceptions for Diesel cars, with the Greens want to remove from the bill.

The second ‘green’ measure in the package is the ‘wrecking bonus’ paid to buyers of new cars when they’re old car is taken out of circulation instead of sold on. Either by design, or (more likely) unintentionally, the bonus has worked like a charm, but not, as hoped, by stimulating buyers to buy German cars (because those that can afford to will normally sell their car on for more of the bonus they would be paid for destrying it), but to import cheap, fuel-efficient cars, the biggest gainer being the Peugeout 307.

In general, the package contains little tageted investment for green measures. Construction work that will be done will conform to high environmental standards, and renovating public buildings will make the more energy efficient, but within the design of the package this seems more incidental, than at the forefront of politicians’ thinking.

4) Umweltgesetzbuch. 0/1?) On the surface, this seems like one of the awfully familiar spats between SPD and CSU about a piece of legislation. But beyond the bickering, this is more important, and an indication of the faultlines in the upcoming election campaign. The project to consolidate the byzantine mess of planning and environemntal regulation into one law, and therefore ensure that planning was as uncomplicated as possible, while making it easier to uphold environmental standards. In the last second, and after years of joined draftingbacked by Angela Merkel, the CSU pronounced it would not support the law without wide-raning changes essentually guaranteeing state autonomy on a wide range of policy, which was duly declined by Sigmar Gabriel, the environmet minister. The fact that the CSU chose to break with the SPD over this declared government intention, and the fact that Angela Merkel has so far declined to step in, the coming months might well show an increasig divergence on climate chane policy.

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