With the passing of the Climate Protection Act, the government fulfills an important promise to the population. In the coming weeks, however, the governing parties must show whether they are really ready for a climate-friendly social market economy. This is what environmental scientist Sebastian Helgenberger writes. He heads the Research Group on the Social and Economic Opportunities of the Energy Transition (COBENEFITS) at IASS Potsdam.
With the meeting of the so-called Climate Cabinet on September 20, the federal government not only lost its faith. It has also lost the opportunity to present a necessary update for a 21st century sustainable social market economy. The Cabinet bill on the Climate Protection Act, which has just been submitted, offers the opportunity to correct the apparent failure of the night session in September quickly and against opposition.
While next week's Climate Opportunity 2019 experts and ministry representatives from all over the world will be discussing in the Futurium in Berlin how renewable energies can be better used for industrial development, labor markets and municipal finances, the governing parties push for their visions and ambitionsless climate package blame each other. Not only the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on the streets of Potsdam, Cologne and Hamburg, it was scornful, also numerous climate scientists and economists reported in the following days considerable doubts about the results of the climate package - such as the ineffective low CO2 certificate prices - the threaten to foul ineffective.
At the same time, the Cabinet's current climate protection bill could certainly have an effect. However, the federal government would have to send clear signals that it is serious about the climate targets. And that it does not see the implementation of the Climate Protection Act as a necessary evil, but understands and shapes it as an opportunity for current and future generations of citizens and entrepreneurs.
The Climate Protection Act sets specific and binding guidelines for politics and the economy for all sectors in the direction of climate neutrality in 2050. Thus, the energy and automotive industries in Germany now have reliable framework conditions for future investments. With these clearly defined responsibilities, the Climate Change Act assumes direct responsibility for all political ministries and builds on the expertise of the ministries to bring appropriate measures in each case - a clever strategy that could put climate protection on a broad political basis. However, as a result of the harsh financial sanctioning mechanism which has now been outlined in comparison to the original version, the law also builds on the good will of the respective ministries to translate the goals set into appropriate and effective measures. Although the sector targets will thus be regarded as important milestones for political actors and companies, they will remain toothless, comparable to the climate protection goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. An effective federal government must follow this up.
When discussing these and other required adjustments in order to bring Germany back to a sustainable climate path and to provide planning and planning security for sustainable investments, one thing is easily overlooked: The future program of measures for the application of the Climate Protection Act will deal with much more than ambitious climate protection. It is nothing less than a reformulation of the social market economy in times of increasingly noticeable climate change and social divisions.
The introduction of a CO2 pricing mechanism plays a central role. Planned as an environmental governance mechanism, it could add a key pillar to the social market economy redistributive system, funded by earned income, turnover and wealth, and thus become a key pillar of the climate-friendly future market economy.
It lacks a comprehensive vision
Previously discussed models, such as socially equitable CO2 pricing through a cost-neutral reduction of VAT or an annual climate bonus, aim primarily to attract no further public displeasure through climate policy measures - after the experience of the Yellow West movement in France, this defensive action is quite understandable. But there is a lack of a comprehensive vision, such as a carbon-funded social pact, that would focus on social and economic opportunities. In view of the great social expectations of a new generation-friendly policy in times of climate change, it is all the more regrettable that the parties of Willy Brandt and Ludwig Erhard escaped the reorganization of the social market economy. Not least for the increasingly disoriented social democracy, this would be a great, possibly the last chance, again to convey vision and orientation.
With the resolution of the Climate Protection Act, the government still has the opportunity to regain lost confidence of the younger generation and to promote in all strata of the population for courageous action in the matter of climate protection in the interests of all. Consistently implemented, the sector goals agreed with the Climate Protection Act can give German business leaders orientation in industrial policy so that they can once again play a leading role in terms of global energy and transport change.