The German government has now approved the country’s 2030 climate plan, first outlaid during the global climate strike initiated by the Fridays for Future movement. Activists call the package weak, yet it carries over measures for e-mobility at least.
The climate protection package proposed by Angela Merkel’s climate cabinet and now approved by the government has efforts to reduce emissions from the transport sector at heart. The Bundestag and Bundesrat still have to agree but with the package being a “minimal climate consensus” this is a formality.
As previously described, the Grand Coalition could not bring itself to introduce a high enough CO2 price or EV sales quota. The law instead relies on incentives. Minister for the Environment, Svenja Schulze describes the approach saying: “We encourage and demand, but we do not overcharge”. So much for the social sense yet polls only a week after the package was released, confirmed that 53% of the German electorate believe that the climate package isn’t sufficient. Only 20% consider it adequate to combat the climate crisis, reports Deutsche Welle.
But to the facts, the 2030 climate law follows the initial proposal in most points. It regulates how much carbon dioxide the energy sector, industry, transport, buildings and agriculture may still emit in the years up to 2030. If a ministry fails to meet its targets, it has to adapt within three months. This means it needs to readjust incentives as much of the measures rely on citizens changing their behaviour.
For transport, the climate protection package continues along the already known target corridor of 7 to 10 million registered electric vehicles by 2030. It further extends the company car regulation (keyword: 0.5% rule) for electric cars and plug-in hybrids until 2030. Besides, it continues the environmental bonus (plug-in grant) for the purchase of electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles beyond 2021 and includes an increase for vehicles under 40,000 euros while failing to specify the subsidy. At initial registration and conversion, electric cars are initially exempt from tax until 31 December 2025.
Also in regards to charging infrastructure, the new climate law follows the initial draft and works along the 1-million-target for electric car charging stations. A corresponding “masterplan” is to follow before the year’s end and the government hopes for cooperation from the energy and car industry.
At the same time, alternative modes of transport such as trains will become cheaper. The government wants to decrease VAT for travelling with Deutsche Bahn from 19% to 7%, while flights will get marginally more expensive. Also in public transport, subsidies for buying electric buses are to help achieve a target of up to 50 per cent of city buses being electrified by 2030. More so, the law allows states and municipalities to set emission requirements for buses, taxis and rental cars.
Yet the initial impression prevails – the government’s climate action package is anything but decisive, especially when it comes to carbon pricing. Deutsche Welle quotes Christian Flachsland, Professor of Sustainability at the Herthie School of Governance about the government’s proposed CO2 price starting at 10 euros per ton in 2021 before rising to €35 in 2026. He believes that if the goal of reducing emissions by 38% in 2030 from 2005 levels is to be achieved, the starting carbon price needs to be around four times higher. Germany aims for carbon-neutrality by 2050.
Yet even this is a modest target compared for example to the Green New Deal proposed by the UK Labor party last month aiming for “net-zero” emissions by 2030. Also Denmark earlier this week called on the EU Commission to introduce an EU-wide ban on diesel and petrol cars by 2040 preceded by a phase-out from 2030 in its climate strategy. Ten other European Union countries backed the proposal Denmark made during a meeting of EU environment ministers in Luxembourg.