They had probably not expected so much resistance in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Protection. Since the draft law has been drafted, which is to largely ban the installation of new gas and oil heating systems in Germany from 2024, an outcry has been going through the country. Property owners are appalled that politicians are pushing them to install an electricity-based heat pump, regardless of whether their home is suitable for this technology.
The tightened replacement obligation for older heaters is also attracting resentment. In many places, the calculations are now hectic: Quickly install a new fossil heating system before this is no longer possible? With regard to the climate, this is not advisable, but in the light of the individual cost-benefit calculation sometimes it is.
Germany is to be climate-neutral by 2045, five years earlier than other major industrial nations have planned. In surveys, the majority of citizens regularly support this ambitious course. But now that it becomes concrete, some people seem to be pondering how expensive the climate neutrality project will be for them personally. A new gas heating system is already available for less than 10,000 euros, a heat pump quickly costs more than double. The situation is similar in another area that politicians are currently struggling with: Electric cars are also significantly more expensive than conventional combustion engines. State subsidies only compensate for part of the price difference.
Hanging game over a low industrial electricity price
Until now, it has been up to each individual to decide how much he or she is willing to pay for more climate protection. This is now changing, the election becomes a duty, with the heaters it starts. Especially for the Greens, this can still be dangerous. Admittedly, they are not alone who, after the failures of the grand coalition, now want to reduce CO2 emissions as quickly as possible. All three partners of the traffic light coalition have agreed on this.
But the resistance of the FDP and the sparse statements of the SPD on the heating plans make it all too clear who is the driving force in the government. It is the ministry of Green Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck. Its State Secretary Patrick Graichen wrote the plan for the heat pump offensive during his time as head of the think tank Agora Energiewende.
With their draft of the Building Energy Act, Habeck and Graichen are encouraging all those who have long seen Berlin's government district as an ivory tower that is increasingly moving away from the reality of citizens' lives. This applies not only to people in the countryside who live in an old house with oil heating and who are now faced with the question of how to cover the costs of a comprehensive renovation. Even in the big cities, a policy that subordinates everything else to the achievement of climate targets only meets with approval in a limited part of society, as the recent election in Berlin has shown.
Two years before the next federal election, the Greens are still a long way from their claim to change from a niche party to a people's party – possibly further than before. The same applies to its goal of becoming Germany's new economic party, as party leader Ricarda Lang has put it. When the Federal Minister of Economics set off on his memorable trip to Qatar almost exactly one year ago, the managers accompanying him actually seemed like a large Habeck fan club.
But there is not much left of the enthusiasm back then. The energy price brakes, which are far too restrictive from the companies' point of view, the stalemate over a cheap industrial electricity price, the sharper approach of the Green ministries towards China, Habeck's accusation that German companies circumvent the sanctions against Russia: all this has also cooled down the Greens' love in the economy. Car manufacturers are now investing more in America, chemical companies in China. The new jobs that Habeck expects from the heat pump industry are of little help here.
This weekend he leaves again with a business delegation, this time to Brazil and Colombia. The trip could be an important step towards the implementation of the free trade agreement with the Mercosur states. If, yes, if the Germans in the Amazon do not again act with the raised moral index finger, warn business representatives. What applies to heating systems also applies to foreign trade policy: setting ambitious goals is one thing. But they must also be practical.