“We’ve made real breakthroughs, real paradigm shifts, and that’s why the result speaks for itself,” said FDP leader Christian Lindner after the coalition committee’s marathon of negotiations in Berlin.
“The laborious work and negotiation process that the coalition parties and my government have now undertaken is representative of society as a whole on its way to an economically successful modern age,” emphasized Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The social-democratic head of government wanted to say that the dissension recently presented by the coalition reflects the mood in society when it comes to climate protection and its costs. Scholz called the laboriously negotiated 16-page compromise paper a “big work”.
“A lot will go faster”
The party leaders of the SPD, Greens and FDP were also very satisfied. The decisions guaranteed “that many things in the country will run faster,” promised SPD leader Lars Klingbeil. Germany should be modernized, infrastructure projects should progress faster, renewable energies should be expanded more quickly.
The coalition is thus abandoning its agenda of the past year of dealing with the consequences of the Russian war in Ukraine and looking to the future.
Greens leader Ricarda Lang promised that the traffic light would now address structural reforms “to move this country forward”. In detail, the following resolutions are involved:
Strengthening of rail traffic
The traffic light wants to invest “considerable funds” in the modernization and expansion of the rail network. At Deutsche Bahn, there is an investment requirement of around 45 billion euros by 2027. This is to be covered, among other things, by revenue from truck tolls on motorways and federal roads. A CO2 surcharge of 200 euros per ton is now to be introduced for the user fee on January 1, 2024.
Zero-emission trucks should be exempt from the toll by the end of 2025 and then only have to pay 25 percent of the regular rate. In addition, from 2024, even smaller trucks from 3.5 tons are to be included in the toll obligation. “Craft businesses are excluded,” says the decision paper. For those who travel a lot by train, the 49-euro ticket is to be integrated into the Bahncard 100 at no extra charge, so that it can also be used for local transport in all cities.
Faster expansion of motorways as well
On this point, the FDP and the Greens were particularly crossed. The FDP also wanted to expand motorways more quickly in order to prevent traffic jams when there was more freight traffic. The Greens resisted for a long time. Now a narrowly limited number of particularly important motorway projects are to be given a special status. This is intended to speed up these projects, among other things through less complex environmental protection tests.
Subsidies for heating replacement
The traffic light coalition wants to tackle the installation of more climate-friendly heating systems – there should be a social balance. “One can say: No one is left in the lurch,” emphasized Lang. The coalition partners initially did not give any details. According to Lindner, the money should come from the climate and transformation fund, a pot of money outside the regular federal budget. According to Lindner, heating systems that currently use fossil fuels should be able to continue to be operated if they use climate-friendly gases.
Reorientation in nature conservation
In the future, it should be possible to pay money as compensation for interventions in nature and the landscape, for example through the construction of wind turbines or roads. “This allows project developers to plan infrastructure projects more easily and quickly,” explained the traffic light. The funds will then be used to buy larger and more connected areas in order to strengthen renaturation and nature conservation – an aspect that many environmental organizations also consider useful.
The traffic light coalition also wants to speed up the installation of e-charging stations. According to the paper by the coalition committee, operators of gas stations should be legally obliged to “build at least one fast charging point per gas station within five years”. However, there will be a special regulation for the operators of small gas stations.
No budgetary effect, basic child security unresolved
According to Lindner, the decisions will not have a direct impact on the federal budget for the coming year. The strengthening of the railway infrastructure should be financed via the truck toll and the funding programs for heating from the climate fund.
The dispute over the budget for 2024 and the following years has therefore not yet been resolved. It was only briefly touched upon by the coalition committee, said Lindner. The coalition partners also did not comment on the financing and design of the basic child security planned from 2025. In the program, state benefits for families such as child benefit and child allowance are to be combined. It is disputed whether rates will also be increased.
Praise from industry, criticism from associations
In the evening, the resolutions met with different responses: the construction industry welcomed the resolution. “The road and the Autobahn will remain the number 1 mode of transport in Germany,” said Tim-Oliver Müller, General Manager of the Main Association of the German Construction Industry.
In contrast, the German environmental aid spoke of a devastating decision. “We call on the members of the Bundestag to prevent this and to flatly reject the planned deterioration of the already unambitious law from the Merkel era,” said Jürgen Resch, DUH federal director.
Heinz Hilgers, President of the Child Protection Association, criticized the fact that the traffic light had not agreed on the financing of basic child security.
mak/rb (dpa, rtr)