German politicians in the country’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, have voted for a controversial and divisive new law which would phase out oil and gas heating systems – despite polling seeming to show strong public opposition.
The Building Energy Act, which has been debated by the German government coalition for months, is part of Germany’s drive to become carbon neutral by 2045 and fight climate change. Once it comes into effect on January 1 2024, it will require all heating systems installed in new buildings and certain old buildings to run on 65% renewable power. This will be introduced on a phased basis.
Some gas heaters can be installed from next year, but only if they can be converted to hydrogen.
This will represent a significant shakeup, as estimates indicate that as many as half of German buildings currently use gas heating sources.
A total of 399 parliamentarians voted in support of the bill, with 275 opposed, and five who abstained.
The bill has been highly contentious in recent months among the so-called “traffic light” coalition – comprised of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Leftwing Social Democrats, the liberal Free Democrats, and the German Green Party. While the bill is strongly supported by the Green Party’s Robert Habeck, who is Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister, the Free Democrats had reservations about some elements and urged amendments throughout.
The bill has been mutually criticised by environmentalists as not being ambitious enough, and by others for being too expensive.
One source of controversy with the bill has been the cost of the supposedly climate-friendly heat pumps, and to what extent the government should subsidise them. As it stands, the State is set to cover about 70% of the cost.
While Habeck claimed that the new measures would eliminate roughly 40 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030, his economy ministry admitted that changes made to the bill since April, such as imposing the heating switch at a later date than had been intended, would mean that Germany will miss its climate goals by 2030.
However, the plan may prove controversial among voters. As reported by German State-owned broadcaster DW:
“According to a survey commissioned by the liberal newspaper Die Zeit, as many as 70% of Germans reject compulsory regulations on banning heating fired by oil or gas or paying for obligatory replacements of their heating systems.”
The recent development follows a period of decline in popularity for Germany’s Green Party. In April, the party faced a substantial drop in popularity after a challenging winter marked by surging energy prices. During this time, the party’s polling figures dropped to 14.5%, putting them behind the rightwing AfD. This marked their lowest poll performance in 14 months, as reported by Bild.
Similarly, a recent poll featured in one of Germany’s biggest newspapers, Die Welt, found that the majority of Germans want better roads more than they want “climate protection.” Polling also found that the vast majority of Germans polled said they preferred traditional fossil fuel cars to electric ones.
The majority of Germans would prefer their government focusing on building better roads rather than “climate protection,” and prefer fossil fuel cars to electric ones, a new poll featured in Die Welt has found.#gripthttps://t.co/syJCoqDmlV
— gript (@griptmedia) September 1, 2023