Petrol prices must not lead to a turning away from climate policy

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Petrol prices must not lead to a turning away from climate policy


The CO2 price is the best instrument for more climate protection. The high energy prices do not change that – but make improvements necessary. A comment.


Gasoline prices hit low incomes disproportionately. This requires changes to the climate protection package.


© Robert Michael / dpa-Zentralbild / dpa
Gasoline prices hit low incomes disproportionately. This requires changes to the climate protection package.


As is well known, Olaf Scholz does not refuel himself. When the SPD chancellor candidate frankly admitted this in the election campaign and, moreover, could not name the current fuel prices, it caused so much ridicule. that Markus Söder got a quick briefing about it – just to interrupt his Union colleague Armin Laschet at the next public opportunity and be able to present the gasoline prices himself. The fact that Söder’s numbers weren’t even exactly right – so be it: Anyone who knows the price of petrol can score points; all politicians in the election campaign seemed to agree on this.

In the meantime, however, the following applies: if you can lower the price of petrol, you can score. Because at the latest since diesel on the weekend with a price of 1.555 euros per liter reached a record high on a national average all politicians should know the current fuel prices. More records are likely to fall in the next few weeks. And not only gasoline, but also heating is becoming more expensive. Winter will be an enormous financial challenge for many households.

The price increases thus reach such elementary areas of life and take place so quickly that politicians have to take action. The first serious acid test for your climate policy is looming here.

Too slow, too uncomfortable

In fact, those responsible are faced with several dilemmas. The first is called time. For weeks the SPD, Greens and FDP have thought about Germany’s path for the next four years and beyond. Some want to mobilize private capital for green investments, others want to repay burdens with citizens’ money. But that takes time. The problems with energy costs need to be addressed immediately.

The second dilemma is the tension between deliberate burden and excessive demands on citizens. The fact that the prices for the use of fossil fuels are rising is entirely in the interests of the future coalition partners. “The kilowatt-hour that I don’t use is the cheapest,” said SPD politician Katarina Barley recently on behalf of the company. A steering effect is wanted.

Anyone who says “respect” must act now

Even without knowing the price of petrol, Olaf Scholz has always warned the German government of an excessively high CO2 price in the negotiations on the climate package. He recognized the social explosive. The yellow vests in France have shown the anger that rising gasoline prices can trigger. In view of his “respect” election campaign with a focus on poorer income groups, he really has no choice but to introduce equalization mechanisms or benefits for certain people. Because the CO2 price has a disproportionately high burden on low incomes.

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There are some proposed solutions on the market. The housing benefit could be increased temporarily. A per capita reimbursement of the CO2 tax is being debated. Deutsche Umwelthilfe spoke out in favor of lowering the electricity tax to the minimum permitted by the EU. It should be emphasized that many of these proposals come explicitly from the corner of those who always urge a brisk climate policy. But with all these necessary fine adjustments, the federal government should not make the mistake of throwing its climate efforts overboard when the first difficulties arise.

On the one hand, the current cost explosion is not only due to climate policy. The high oil price is also a result of the global economy picking up again. Above all, however, price regulation is still the simplest instrument for more climate protection. This is particularly evident in industry when entire sectors are looking for their way to a green economy.

Perhaps one of the findings from this fall is that cost incentives are more effective here than with private consumers. The high energy prices do not require a U-turn in climate policy, but a differentiation.

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