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Questions and answers: The price for the climate sins


TIME ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates

Berlin (dpa) - Climate protection must be faster, which is already clear to most. But many have to change their habits, the Germans as well as the industry.

Insulating houses better, climate-friendly heating and driving a car, less flying - all this does not come by itself. The federal government must provide incentives, my senior advisers - for example, by making greenhouse gas emissions more expensive. Climate protection should not only become a more attractive option morally but also financially.

The "economic methods" speak of a "historically unique opportunity". That climate protection is indispensable for humanity far beyond Germany is becoming more and more clear to people, the willingness to think about solutions is greater than ever. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) accepted her recommendations on Friday.

Three things have to be given special consideration, say the experts: 1. Germany alone can not tear it. 2. The solution must be socially balanced, the Germans should get their money back. 3. Economically, the whole thing has to be efficient. The result: refueling and heating with oil and gas could be more expensive - to offset it could give the citizens a climate bonus.

Why the whole?

The consequences of global warming are becoming more visible around the world: glaciers are melting, corals are dying, islands are sinking, there are more droughts, heat waves, storms and heavy rainfall. All states, including Germany, must reduce greenhouse gas emissions more strongly. At the moment, Germany is not achieving its binding EU targets in the areas of buildings, transport and agriculture. It is threatening billions of euros in costs.

What are the options?

In the long term, government advisers say, European emissions trading needs to be extended to transport and housing. So far, only the energy industry and parts of the industry have to prove CO2 emissions for greenhouse gas emissions, which are gradually being reduced across the EU. Because this works well, it should apply from 2030 for other industries. Until then, other solutions would have to be: Either an additional Germany-wide certificates trading in the transport and heating sectors, or a tax on the emission of CO2. What they find better, the consultants do not say.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two variants?

For a CO2 tax says that you can introduce them quickly. In addition, it brings planning security for companies, because they already knew today that emission reductions would pay off, says Claudia Kemfert from the German Institute for Economic Research. On the other hand, a tax must constantly be readjusted, a "learning system", according to the "economics". In order for the citizens to get used to it, it should not be too high for the time being, but later on it would have to increase significantly. It is difficult to do this for several political legislatures.

Setting up your own emissions trading system is more tedious - but later it could be easier to convert it into the EU-wide regulation. DIW experts expect prices to rise sharply in the transport sector at first. The price would automatically respond to cyclical fluctuations and would not always have to be adjusted.

What does the Minister of the Environment want - and what will she think of the report?

Svenja Schulze promotes an increase in energy taxes on diesel, gasoline, heating oil and natural gas - plus a "climate premium" for all citizens to ensure social balance. Affected companies want to help them with investment grants. This does not contradict fundamentally the proposals of the «economic ways». These contradict the SPD politician but in a different point: Own CO2 savings targets for individual areas such as transport, industry, agriculture or buildings, they consider wrong. Schulze, on the other hand, wants to lash down these goals in the Climate Protection Act. Because then it would be clear that the individual ministries have a duty.

Will it be more expensive for the citizen?

It will all depend on how climate-friendly he behaves. Those who do not drive a lot, live in a well-insulated apartment and heat over geothermal energy, might even be able to get money. For others, it can be more expensive. Anyone who has to commute, for example, needs special protection, the SPD emphasizes.

In any case, it seems almost certain that the state should not consider the money from the CO2 tax or emissions trading as additional revenue. It should be redistributed socially balanced. Whether about a premium, as Schulze wants it, or about a lower electricity tax is still controversial. It would also be possible to reduce direct taxes or social security contributions, say the "economic methods", the DIW proposes to promote electro-mobility and energy-efficient building renovation.

What about the economy?

Some associations fear that their companies are no longer internationally competitive if they have to pay more because of climate change. However, there are special rules in the EU emissions trading system for particularly energy-intensive companies - one can assume that they will continue to be protected. Moreover, say the "economics", most companies could pass the costs to the customers. In the end, the citizens paid.

And when does that happen?

Whether it even comes, is not yet decided. Especially in the CSU, many politicians only want to make progress through support programs and incentives. By 16 September, CDU and CSU want to find a position among themselves. Then the black-red coalition is tuned - in the second half of September "basic decisions" should fall. The aim is to find a way to achieve the climate targets for 2030 - 55 percent less greenhouse gases than 1990 - and the EU targets for non-emissions trading. A carbon price can play an important role, say the experts - but the overall package should be much larger.

Source: zeit

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