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Global Economy

Wissing's lowest common denominator

You can easily walk 300 meters in three minutes, but in the traffic light government these 300 meters are enough to show that there is no consensus on climate protection.

At 12 noon, Transport Minister Volker Wissing explains to the press in his ministry on Invalidenstraße in Berlin how he intends to reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector by 2030 as much as required by the Climate Protection Act.

At 12:30 p.m., State Secretary for Climate Protection Patrick Graichen – Minister Robert Habeck stayed at home with symptoms of a cold – and Minister for Construction Klara Geywitz in the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection – also on Invalidenstrasse – explain what is planned for the same purpose in the building sector.

disagreement in the ministries

Before that, the cabinet met in the chancellery; the ministerial round there could have decided on an overall climate package for a CO2 reduction path by 2030 across all sector boundaries – transport, buildings, energy production, industry, agriculture. But there is no consensus, and so the plans presented today by the ministries are no more than that: proposals from the perspective of the respective houses, but no coordinated roadmap by the government.

The immediate program of the Ministry of Climate and Building is 15 pages long, not everything is new. From 2024, newly installed heating systems are to be operated with 65 percent renewable energy; Pure gas heating would then no longer be permitted. From 2025, the efficiency standard EH40 will be prescribed for new buildings, with funding, renovation has priority over new construction, and "municipal heat planning" will be prescribed. In a large table, the ministries calculate that they would achieve the necessary CO2 savings by 2030 with these and numerous other measures.

Experts criticize Wissing's plans

The Ministry of Transport's emergency program comprises three pages, supplemented by an expert paper. To save CO2, Volker Wissing relies, among other things, on expanding the charging infrastructure for cars and trucks, on more bicycle traffic, more and better buses and trains and less traffic through more home office. Missing the CO2 savings target – three million tons in 2021 – will be overcompensated according to Wissing by 2030, but every year you have to make adjustments if necessary.

However, experts consider Wissing's plans to be inadequate. Wiebke Zimmer from the think tank Agora Verkehrswende speaks of a "minimum solution". This should "obviously only compensate for the CO2 target failure from 2021 – and that over a number of years."

"Insufficient Measures"

For Malte Hentschke-Kemper from the Climate Alliance Germany, Wissing's plan "does not contain sufficient measures to achieve the reduction targets required by the Climate Protection Act for the coming years." The expert speaks of a "gigantic implementation gap" that cannot be closed with e-fuels and the promotion of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Agora expert Zimmer calls on Wissing to "reduce climate-damaging privileges and subsidies"; Elements such as motor vehicle tax, purchase bonus, company car taxation, commuter allowance, car toll and CO2 price in combination with a climate bonus would have to be reformed.

problem child transport sector

The taunts from the Economics Ministry 300 meters away are probably more painful for Wissing than this criticism. State Secretary Graichen emphasizes that the transport sector must save more CO2 than the building sector by 2030 – namely 270 million tons. It's about this number, says Graichen, and not about missing the target of three million tons in 2021.

It's no secret that the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, which has overall responsibility for meeting the climate targets, is only very partially satisfied with the Ministry of Transport. The transport sector has always been the problem child when it comes to CO2 savings. Unlike in sectors such as industry, energy production and agriculture, CO2 emissions have been almost constant here since 1990.

The fact that there is an FDP minister in the Ministry of Transport does not make things any easier from the point of view of the green-led climate ministry. Here you have fewer problems sooner or later banning climate-damaging behavior and technology. For FDP man Wissing, on the other hand, words like "speed limit" and "ban on combustion engines" are emotive words.

Wissing made it clear today that as Minister of Transport he does not want to assume the role of top climate protector without regard to the losses. He had to weigh up between climate protection and the "mobility needs of society and also the acceptance of society". Wissing thinks his concept does justice to that.

Criticism also in the building sector

Apart from that, there is not only criticism of Wissing's CO2 reduction plan, but also of Habeck and Geywitz's in the building sector. Uta Weiß from the think tank Agora Energiewende sees it "largely as a declaration of intent", although the plan goes in the right direction. The rule that new heating systems should be operated with 65 percent renewable energy must now quickly become law. Otherwise, the market launch of half a million heat pumps per year could hardly succeed. In addition, the emergency program only mentions minimum energy standards for buildings in passing – although such standards are central to the success of the heat transition.

The criticism of Transport Minister Wissing's plans is, of course, louder. It looks as if transport will be the focus of discussions about CO2 savings in the coming days and weeks. One way or another, the traffic light has to agree in all sectors – if it wants to comply with its plan from the coalition agreement to adopt a comprehensive climate protection program by the end of 2022.

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