Huge controversy over the climate protection law: Traffic lights are threatened with the third slap from Karlsruhe

The Federal Constitutional Court is concerned with the traffic lights again. After an urgent lawsuit from the CDU, the adoption of the laboriously negotiated climate protection law could be overturned on Friday. Plaintiff Heilmann believes his chances are great, while the government factions are struggling to explain their actions.

History doesn’t repeat itself, they say. The traffic light is apparently determined to refute this popular wisdom: around ten months after the Federal Constitutional Court’s extremely embarrassing decision to extend the consultation periods on the heating law, the same thing now threatens to happen again. The CDU member of the Bundestag Thomas Heilmann wants to stop the second and third readings of the reformed climate protection law planned for Friday by means of an urgent motion. He had already achieved this at the beginning of July last year with the Building Energy Act, which is better known as the Heating Act. The news from Karlsruhe that the heating law, which had only been agreed with great difficulty, would only be put to the vote after a delay of many weeks, caught the traffic light factions off guard on a hot summer evening – and spoiled the SPD leadership’s beautiful party.

Heilmann is convinced that he will be successful again. “I think the procedural errors are even more serious than they were with the heating law,” said Heilmann in a video conference while he was in Karlsruhe anyway because of the dispute over electoral law reform that was being negotiated at the same time. He feels sorry for the court: In parallel to the complex process surrounding the traffic light voting law changes, it now has to decide by Friday morning whether Heilmann’s urgent application is sufficiently justified to order a stop to the legislative process. A verdict on the matter would not come until months later.

“Then all the dams will break”

If Heilmann is successful this time too, it would be the traffic light’s third slap from Karlsruhe within a few months. In the fall, the Federal Constitutional Court canceled the reallocation of Corona aid, thereby causing the federal government a serious budget crisis that continues to smolder with a view to the coming budgets. As with the heating law, Heilmann is currently concerned with how the government factions deal with parliament: After the SPD, Greens and FDP reached an agreement on the solar package and the heating law on the night of April 15th, the Bundestag was given too little time to discuss the matter Compared to the first reading, the Climate Protection Act has been changed in several places.

“No application in an allotment garden association could legally be decided in this form and that is why we cannot do it like this in the German Bundestag,” said Heilmann. “If we let the traffic light go through this now, then all the dams will break, then they’ll do this with every other law.” According to his calculations, the opposition parties had just seven days to examine the changes to the law. Formally only four days, because the official amendment was only submitted to the responsible committee for climate protection and energy on Tuesday.

Lack of understanding among the Greens and the SPD

In the ranks of the government, the Union’s excitement cannot be understood. “To be honest, I don’t understand the criticism of it,” said Irene Mihalic, parliamentary director of the Greens. “There was a hearing and this hearing resulted in corresponding changes that were then incorporated into the climate protection law. These changes have been before the MPs for a few days.” All MPs would have had the opportunity to deal with it. The procedure corresponds to 80 percent of all legislative procedures in the Bundestag and is in accordance with its rules of procedure.

Similarly Katja Mast, the parliamentary managing director of the SPD parliamentary group: “The CDU and also colleague Heilmann do not want to change the law,” said Mast and recalled that the climate protection law had been enforced in the grand coalition by the SPD against the CDU and CSU must. “Now we’re making this law even better and more efficient with an update, so it doesn’t surprise me that they’re upset about it.”

Where does the need to hurry come from?

From Heilmann’s point of view, it is unclear whether the law will really bring more climate protection. The fact that the amended Climate Protection Act – under pressure from the Greens – now also calls for concrete climate protection measures for the years 2031 to 2040 is no small thing. In addition, legally complex questions will be affected if it turns out around 2030 that a climate protection forecast from 2025 was incorrect. It is important to examine all implications carefully. Ultimately, it is about “massive fundamental rights issues” that also affect future generations. Giving the opposition only four days to do this and denying them a second expert hearing is “simply unreasonable”.

Heilmann is particularly bitter about the lack of need to hurry. The government factions have not requested a shortening of the deadline from the Federal Council. This is not supposed to deal with the climate protection law on the same Friday, but only at its following meeting in May. According to Heilmann, the law would “lay around for three weeks” if it wasn’t necessary.

In fact, the government coalitions make no secret of it, the approach is solely due to the internal logic of the eternally divisive traffic lights. The solar package is also due to be passed by the Bundestag on Friday on the same morning as the climate protection law. This has been agreed between the government factions for weeks, but was blocked by the FDP until the traffic light was also agreed on the climate protection law. The FDP wanted to ensure that the binding annual sector targets were supplemented by an overall view of the CO2 savings achieved.

FDP could make the lawsuit obsolete

Otherwise, Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing would have had to take drastic measures – which from the FDP’s point of view were unreasonable – in the transport sector, which clearly missed its savings targets. FDP politician Wissing had therefore even threatened to ban Sunday driving. Many Greens in particular and environmental protection organizations associated with them consider it an outrage that individual ministries will now be allowed to exceed their CO2 budget in the future, even if Germany as a whole has achieved its annual emissions targets.

Individual Green MPs have therefore already announced their rejection of the reformed climate protection law. Apparently distrustful of the coalition partners’ voting behavior, the FDP made the simultaneous vote on the solar package and the climate protection law a condition of an agreement. In fact, there are only a few hours between the two votes, and foul play by the Greens would be hypothetically conceivable, but there is no sign of it.

The FDP could abandon the link between the two laws and postpone the vote on the climate protection law in the form agreed by the traffic light parties for a few weeks. This would prevent another embarrassment in court. Heilmann argues that the Climate Protection Act could gain legal certainty in this way. Additionally, incorporating suggestions for improvement put forward by the opposition and experts would require the willingness to renegotiate the climate protection law that has been in the Bundestag since August. However, this step apparently appears to the coalition to be even more risky than Heilmann’s urgent action. In any case, the SPD and the Greens are confident that Heilmann will not be right this time. But they were already in July last year.

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