The matter sounds very plausible at first: Climate protection is urgently needed, but it also costs a lot of money - from state purchase premiums for electric cars to the promotion of climate-friendly green hydrogen for industry.

There is another way that politics could help the climate without spending a single euro on it.

On the contrary, it would actually increase the state's income.

Does that sound too good to be true?

In any case, it would be possible.

To this day, the state grants high tax advantages that fuel the consumption of climate-damaging fossil fuels.

If these were deleted, the climate would be beneficial and the finance minister even more so.

Subsidies are increasing in the transport sector in particular: from the flat-rate travel allowance for commuters to the discount for diesel fuel and tax advantages for company car users to tax-free kerosene in air transport and VAT exemption for international flights.

There are huge sums of money. The aforementioned tax advantages in transport alone amount to around 30 billion euros per year in Germany, depending on how you calculate (see graphic). Experts have long railed against the lavish subsidy. The flat-rate distance allowance for commuters provides “a dubious incentive to widen the distance between work and place of residence”, criticize the economic practices of the Federal Government's Advisory Council. And because millions of commuters use the car, the false incentive causes high greenhouse gas emissions. The economic wise men are similarly critical of the tax advantages for company cars. Together, the state has a lump sum for distance and company car privilege costing more than 9 billion euros a year.

On the other hand, customers pay only 47 cents tax per liter on diesel fuel, while on petrol they pay 65 cents. On the other hand, the vehicle tax for diesel cars is higher, but frequent drivers in particular save a lot with diesel. Kay Scheller, President of the Federal Court of Auditors, says that the diesel privilege, which is worth billions, is incomprehensible, and certainly not with a view to climate protection.

The question arises why the ecologically nonsensical tax advantages still exist.

And above all: are your days numbered after all?

After all, the pressure to act on climate protection has never been as great as it is today.

The federal government made up of the Union and the SPD, startled by the basic climate protection ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, has just raised the bar again and adopted stricter climate protection targets.

A political minefield

At least one party has declared war on climate-damaging tax rebates: the Greens. “We are removing environmentally harmful subsidies,” it says in a nutshell in the draft of the party's federal election program. A reform of the commuter flat rate is expressly not planned, says a spokeswoman. But if the Greens co-govern in the federal government from autumn, his party will abolish the diesel privilege within one legislative period, has announced co-party leader Robert Habeck. The company car taxation is to be "ecologically redesigned" according to the election program. Environmentally harmful subsidies in air traffic are to be "reduced".