Heating regulations threaten Germany’s ruling coalition


As a result of the opposition of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) – contrary to the government’s earlier plans – the draft law of the Ministry of Economy, which would de facto prohibit the installation of conventional gas and oil boilers from next year, will not be considered at the next parliamentary session. The Minister of Economy and Climate Robert Habeck (Greens) said that the adoption of the law before the holidays – previously agreed by the coalition – “will no longer be possible with a postponement”. According to media reports, the current conflict increases the likelihood that the law may not come into force early next year, as originally planned.

Climate neutrality versus disputes in the coalition

The delay in the bill, a key piece of legislation that is expected to lead the country to climate neutrality by 2045, has exacerbated the conflict in the tripartite government coalition of the Greens, FDP and Social Democrats (SPD). Habeck openly accused coalition partner FDP of “breaking a promise”. Responding to the allegations, the Free Democrats noted that they had been asking for necessary but fundamental changes to the project for weeks. According to the FDP, the lack of reaction from the coalition partner meant that the submitted draft did not constitute a basis for parliamentary discussions, although the party agreed to its adoption during government negotiations in April. According to the current proposal, from the beginning of 2024 it will be possible to install only such heating systems that use at least 65 percent renewable energy. The bill is controversial due to the higher costs of climate-friendly heating systems, such as heat pumps. Commentators note that the coalition is sinking into an ever deeper crisis. According to the daily Die Tageszeitung, if the parties continue the dispute, they will create a “circle of mutual destruction”. The Bavarian newspaper Münchener Merkur, on the other hand, believes that the law is flawed and that “it is urgent to return to work.” Zeit Online accused the FDP of exploiting public uncertainty about the transition to climate-friendly heating for its own political gain. The climate and energy bulletin “Tagesspiegel Background” suspects that the Greens may take revenge on the coalition partner by delaying projects important to the FDP, such as new regulations to speed up road construction.

Scholz a weak leader?

Chancellor Scholz, who should act as an arbiter between the partners, has not been able to prove himself so far, which obviously pleases the leader of the conservative opposition, Freidrich Merz. Internal scuffles are reflected in the support for the ruling coalition. Last week’s poll conducted by the Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis shows that only half of Germans believe that the ruling coalition will last until the end of its term. “The first months of this government were strongly determined by the pandemic and then the war in Ukraine, which masked some internal tensions,” said Stefan Marschall, a political scientist at the University of Düsseldorf. In his view, the fact that the government’s current policy is focused on internal affairs makes some conflicts visible. Even though Chancellor Olaf Scholz last Thursday called on the junior coalition partners to resolve the dispute in the next few weeks, some 81 percent of Germans believe that Scholz should take a stronger position leader. Another point of contention is the planned by the Greens subsidy for electricity prices for industry, which may cost from 25 to 30 billion euros by 2030. The finance minister from the FDP party opposes this law, who explains his objections with budget constraints. Economy Minister Robert Habeck, commenting on the current conflict, said that the three parties (forming the coalition) are too focused on their own electorates, sometimes neglecting the common interest of Germany, and added that the vicious circle of politicians who talk badly about themselves must end.

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