The traffic light coalition is wrestling with Habeck’s heating law – politics

In the end, was it the Bremen “Brötchentaste” or Robert Habeck’s “Heiz-Hammer” that gave the Greens a decent defeat in the state elections in the smallest federal state? You will probably never find out for sure, but the fact is: The election defeat in Bremen will make the work of the Greens even more difficult at the federal level – and in two respects. Because Habeck’s party will have to answer a very fundamental and a very specific question in the coming months.

The basic one is: How do you push through the climate-friendly restructuring of Germany without giving people a feeling of constant patronage and being overwhelmed? Symbolic of this is the dispute over the so-called roll button, the exception that allows the people of Bremen to park their car for a few minutes in front of the bakery or the butcher’s shop without having to pay for it. The fact that the local Greens perforated the special permit must have cost them a lot of votes.

The specific question is about the Building Energy Act (GEG), with which Economics Minister Habeck and Building Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) want to push the gradual replacement of millions of heaters in German residential buildings. According to the cabinet decision, at least 65 percent of new heating systems should be operated with renewable energies from 2024 onwards. Habeck relies primarily on the heat pump, but also wants to allow the use of district heating and, under certain conditions, solar thermal energy, biomass, hydrogen and climate-neutral gas. There is no immediate obligation to replace existing buildings, and there should be a transitional period for broken heating systems. In addition, the state wants to assume up to 50 percent of the conversion costs.

Nevertheless, social associations and industry, opposition and also the governing parties have been outdoing each other for weeks with requests for postponements, changes and improvements to the supposed “Heating Prohibition Act”. Only the protagonists are remarkably quiet – Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Lindner, who flanked his approval of the GEG in the cabinet with a protocol statement in which he called for “practicable and financeable” implementation and “further necessary changes” in the parliamentary process.

Habeck is ready for longer periods, the FDP wants to continue using the gas network

Both ministers are aware that they will ultimately have to make compromises: Habeck, because he knows that a slightly less restrictive law is better than none at all, and Lindner, because he can hardly vote against a project in the Bundestag that he has in the cabinet approved. However, both sides remain in their positions, motto: Whoever flinches first has lost. According to SZ information, the Greens are refusing to take the first step because they want a clear signal from the Liberals that they support the GEG in principle. And the FDP, in turn, is demanding concessions from the Greens that open the door to further talks about more openness to technology and longer transition periods.

Habeck has already indicated what a compromise could look like for him. According to his own statements, he is ready for longer transition and adjustment periods as long as it is clear that the law will be passed as planned this summer. He can also imagine a subsidy of up to 80 percent of the conversion costs, with the subsidies being taxed and thus melted away for higher earners.

For FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr, however, the problems lie elsewhere – namely with Habeck’s focus on the heat pump. “Most people cannot choose their heating because many households are already connected to the gas or district heating network. Heat pumps are not an option, especially in densely built-up cities,” he said Süddeutsche Zeitung. The decisive factor for the FDP is that the existing gas network in Germany, which is around 500,000 kilometers long, can continue to be used with climate-neutral fuels. “Unfortunately, Mr. Habeck has not yet answered many questions – and the suppliers who have to implement the whole thing have concerns,” says Dürr. In view of such problems, “the debate about the start of the law is secondary” for him.

That is exactly what she is not for Habeck. His concern: If the reform does not come until 2027, as parts of the SPD are demanding, it could be overturned by the next government before it comes into force – a government possibly without the Greens.

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