German upper house approves climate change compromise

The German government’s revised climate change package was approved by the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, on Friday.

The measures were agreed by the lower house, the Budestag, on Thursday, after a compromise was reached by the parliamentary Mediation Committee.

Among the agreed measures is a reduction in value added tax on rail tickets for long-distance travel from the beginning of 2020.

Manuela Schwesig from the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD), who chairs the Mediation Committee, defended the compromise, and said the measures were socially just.

“Part of honesty is that the CO2 price will rise bit by bit over the next few years,” she told German television on Friday.

She added, though, that the high price would not be reached for several years, so that consumers would have time to adjust.

“For example, there will be subsidies for switching from fuel oil heating systems,” she said.

In addition, she said, electricity users would be helped by the lowering of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) levy. “And I say here quite clearly: the electricity companies will not be able to pocket a cent for themselves, this will be state-monitored.”

The automotive industry criticized the compromise deal. “There is light, but there is also quite a lot of shadow,” the president of the car industry association, Bernhard Mattes, said.

“Unfortunately, the German government has failed to set the course for an earlier entry into emissions trading as part of the climate change law,” Mattes said.

“This is a missed opportunity. With emissions trading, ideally at European level, we are relying on an economically optimal instrument for achieving the climate targets.”

Mattes was also critical of the German government’s decision to set “annual and ton-specific” CO2 targets for the individual sectors of the economy as early as 2020.

Prior to Friday’s vote on the climate package in the Bundesrat, heads of state government stressed that the measures needed the acceptance of citizens.

“Politicians do not want to tell people how to live, but to take them with them,” said Hesse’s Premier Volker Bouffier, from the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU).

He told the Bundesrat on Friday that it was about a policy of “meeting halfway.”

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