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What does Germany’s planned climate protection package mean for you?

The German government is set to approve on Friday a number of laws in its climate protection package on Friday. From more expensive plane tickets to higher commuter allowances, here's how they could affect you.

What does Germany’s planned climate protection package mean for you?
Commuters in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Less than two months ago, Germany’s so-called Climate Cabinet decided on the cornerstones of its climate protection programme. 

On Friday, the Bundestag (parliament) will approve a large portion of the laws necessary for its implementation. Only laws pertaining to tax changes will still need the approval of Germany's Bundesrat (Federal Assembly)

The German government wants to ensure the country still achieves its climate targets for 2030. However, activists have said the measures don't go far enough.

The following measures were due to be approved on Friday:

PLANE TICKETS: In order to compensate for the reduced income of the changes to rail tax, the federal government wants to demand higher taxes on airline tickets, with passengers who regularly take short-haul flights facing a bigger hit.

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Photo: DPA

According to the latest draft by the Finance Ministry, the air traffic tax for domestic and EU flights is to be raised by around 76 percent, and for longer flights by around 43 percent. The Ministry expects this to increase revenue by €740 million per year.

The tax for flights in Europe is to rise by €5.65 to €13.03 per ticket departing from a German airport. For routes up to 6000 kilometers, an increase of €9.96 to €33.01 is planned. For further long-haul routes, €59.43 will be due in the future, almost €18 more than before.

The changes are planned to come into force on April 1st 2020 to give airlines enough time to adjust pricing, so it gives air passengers a temporary reprieve before tickets become more expensive.

CO2 PRICE: It is intended to make climate-damaging fuels from oil, natural gas and later coal more expensive – and aims to provide an incentive for the development and purchase of climate-friendly cars and heating systems.

In 2021, more than 4,000 affected companies will pay €10 per tonne of CO2 they emit, with the price gradually rising to €35 by 2025. 

COMMUTER ALLOWANCE: Germany's commuter allowance (Pendlerpauschale) is intended to enable employers with a long way to go to work to reduce their personal tax burden. To calculate  the allowance, the commuter needs to know the length of the route and the number of working days on which the route is driven.

In order to compensate for the more expensive fuel, the commuter allowance for long distances is to rise for five years. From the 21st kilometre onwards there will be 35 cents per kilometre instead of 30. This amount can be deducted from taxable income per working day.

BUILDING RESTORATION/REFURBISHMENT: Those who take measures to insulate the walls or roof in their apartment or house, or renew windows, doors or heating, should receive tax relief for three years.

To qualify, the property must be older than 10 years. According to DPA information, the subsidy is to be deducted from taxes up to a total of €200,000 and will come in the form of a tax reduction of up to 20 percent.

This article was updated on November 15th, 2019.

READ ALSO: What are the key points of Merkel's new climate strategy?

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CLIMATE CHANGE

UPDATE: Greta Thunberg joins German climate strikes before vote ‘of a century’

Tens of thousands of climate activists including Greta Thunberg descended on German cities Friday ahead of the weekend general election to crank up the pressure on the candidates to succeed Angela Merkel.

UPDATE: Greta Thunberg joins German climate strikes before vote 'of a century'
Greta Thunberg and other climate activists in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Speaking at a rally in front of the Reichstag parliament building in the run-up to Sunday’s poll, Thunberg told cheering Fridays for Future youth supporters that they needed to hold Germany’s political leaders to account past election day.

“It is clearer than ever that no political party is doing close to enough… not even their proposed commitments are close to being in line with what would be needed to fulfil the Paris Agreement,” on curbing climate change, she said.

“Yes, we must vote, you must vote, but remember that voting only will not be enough. We must keep going into the streets.”

As Germany’s top parties hold final rallies ahead of Sunday’s vote, the Fridays for Future youth marches claim the political class has let down the younger generation.

“The political parties haven’t taken the climate catastrophe seriously enough,” Luisa Neubauer, who runs the group’s German chapter, said.

She said Germany, as one of the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases, had an outsize responsibility to set an example, with time running out to reverse destructive trends.

“That is why we are calling this the election of a century,” she said.

The race has boiled down to a two-way contest between Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, the moderate finance minister, and Armin Laschet from Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.

Polls give Scholz a small lead of about 26 percent over Laschet at around 22 percent, with the candidate from the ecologist Greens, Annalena Baerbock, trailing in the mid-teens.

Despite the urgency of the climate issue for a majority of Germans, particularly in the aftermath of deadly floods in the west of the country in July, this has failed to translate into strong support for the relatively inexperienced Baerbock.

She told Die Welt newspaper that she hoped Friday’s rally would give her party “tailwinds” heading into the vote. “The next government has to be a climate government – that will only work with a strong Green party.”   

More than 400 “climate strikes” are planned across Germany, with the Swedish Thunberg, who inspired the movement, expected to speak outside the Reichstag parliament building.

Thousands gathered on the lawn there from late morning bearing signs reading “Climate now, homework later”, “It’s our future” and simply “Vote”.

“Climate is an important issue and if this continues things are going to get worse and worse,” 14-year-old pupil Louise Herr told AFP.

Gathering under the banners “We are young and need the world!” and “Everything for the climate”, the activists are arguing that “climate crisis is this century’s biggest problem”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

 ‘Unfair burden’

The activists will be part of a global climate strike in more than 1,000 communities around the world, Fridays for Future said.

Their central demand is to limit the warming of the Earth to maximum 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) as laid out in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

The Paris agreement set a goal of reducing global warming by two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels with an aspiration to go further and cap the rise to 1.5 Celsius.

Despite Merkel’s vocal support of climate protection measures, Germany has repeatedly failed in recent years to meet its emission reduction targets under the pact.

In a landmark ruling in April, Germany’s constitutional court found the government’s plans to curb CO2 emissions “insufficient” to meet the targets of the Paris agreement and placed an “unfair burden” on future generations.

The Fridays for Future movement launched global school strikes more than two years ago arguing that time was running out to stop irreversible damage from the warming of the planet.


Demonstrators take to the streets in Berlin to call for urgent climate action. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Luca Bruno

In September 2019, it drew huge crowds in cities and towns around the world including 1.4 million protesters in Germany, according to organisers.

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on its weekly rallies but the election campaign in Europe’s top economy has revitalised the
movement.

“The climate crisis cannot be solved through party politics alone,” Thunberg told reporters ahead of her appearance in Berlin.

“We can’t just vote for change, we also have to be active democratic citizens and go out on the streets and demand action.”

READ ALSO:

Greens as junior partner?

Around 60.4 million Germans are called to the polls on Sunday and most voters cite climate protection among their top priorities.

All three leading parties have said they aim to implement a climate protection agenda if elected, with the Greens presenting the most ambitious package of measures.

However the Fridays for Future activists have said even the Greens’ official programme falls short of what is needed to stick to the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise.

The Greens want to end coal energy use by 2030 instead of the current 2038. They also want the production of combustion engine cars to end from the same year.

While the party is expected to fall far short of its ambition to win the election Sunday and place Baerbock in the chancellery, polls indicate it has a good chance of joining a ruling coalition as a junior partner under Scholz or Laschet.

By Deborah Cole

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