German Greens Win Climate Remedies in New Government

BERLIN, Germany, October 15, 2002 (ENS) - Germany's Social Democrat and Green parties are ready to return to full time government after finalizing a coalition agreement following last month's elections. The deal includes some stronger environmental policy positions, though the current program of annual energy tax increases is to be halted.

There are 10 ministries for the SPD and three for the Greens. Buoyed by their best ever election result, the Greens have won further responsibilities for their three ministers, including promotion of renewable energy, which passes to the environment ministry from the economic portfolio.

For the Greens, Joschka Fischer remains foreign minister, Juergen Trittin remains environment minister and Renate Kuenast keeps control of consumer protection, agriculture and food.

Trittin

German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin
(Photo courtesy IISD-ENB)
Key environmental policy elements of the coalition deal focus on energy and climate change.

Energy taxes will rise only once more, on January 1, 2003 as already scheduled, despite pressure from the Greens for further increases. The party's consolation prize is a scheduled review of the ecotax program in 2004.

Several loopholes that have benefited energy intensive companies such as aluminium manufacturers will be closed.

The government is to abandon opposition to European Commission proposals for mandatory rather than voluntary participation in a EU carbon dioxide emissions trading scheme.

The change should make it easier for EU environment ministers to reach agreement on emissions trading. Under the deal, German companies would be able to join trading pools rather than having to participate individually.

Germany will push for the EU to go beyond its current Kyoto Protocol commitment to cut greenhouse gases to agree a target reduction of 30 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. In this context, Germany should reduce its own emissions by 40 percent, the parties have agreed.

Kuenast

Renate Kuenast is minister responsible for consumer protection, agriculture and food. (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
Among a string of tax measures, car taxes will continue to be developed along "environmental lines," including tax breaks for natural gas powered vehicles until 2020.

Flights from Germany to other EU nations will no longer be exempt from the Value Added Tax. The government will do its utmost to achieve an EU accord on jet fuel taxation. There will also be equal taxation of gas and heating oil.

On subsidies, coal industry support is to be cut from 3.05 billion to 2.17 billion by 2005. Meanwhile, renewable energy subsidies are to be increased to 230 million by 2006.

One of four nuclear power stations prioritized for closure under the government's nuclear phaseout program has been given an additional two years of operation. Energie Baden-Wurttemberg (EnBW) was seeking to postpone the planned early 2003 closure of its Obrigheim nuclear power plant. EnBW had requested to transfer a portion of another reactor's generation credit to Obrigheim so that it could operate longer.

Officials reaffirmed their commitment to introduce deposits on one-way drinks containers to protect refillables' share of the market as planned on January 1, despite a recent court decision banning them in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.

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{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}