Rental apartments in Berlin
Photo: Wolfgang Kumm / DPA
An initiative to relieve around 23 million households in Germany with the energy transition is on a knife's edge.
According to SPIEGEL information, the Union parliamentary group and two federal ministries led by the Union have been bunkering a compromise proposal for almost a week, which is intended to ensure more justice in the energy transition.
Since the beginning of the year, a fee of 25 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted has been due.
As a result, a liter of heating oil rises by around eight cents, and a kilowatt hour of natural gas by 0.6 cents.
According to the current legal situation, the CO₂ costs are part of the price of heating costs and can be passed on to tenants by landlords without restriction.
The grand coalition actually wanted to change that.
According to SPIEGEL information, four out of five responsible federal ministries campaigned for the additional costs to be divided evenly between tenants and landlords: the Ministry of Construction (CSU), the Ministry of the Environment (SPD), the Ministry of Finance (SPD) and the Ministry of Consumer Protection (SPD).
The only condition was to limit the costs for landlords to 500 euros per year - which apparently would not have been a problem.
Peter Altmaier's (CDU) economics ministry resisted the compromise proposal.
According to SPIEGEL information, it is worried, among other things, about private landlords who have little reserves.
From Altmaier's point of view, their willingness to invest threatens to be inhibited by a 50-50 breakdown, so that the bottom line is that less renovation could be done - especially in rural areas, where there are an above-average number of private landlords.
Likewise, false incentives could be set with a flat-rate 50-50 solution without specific renovation specifications.
One can currently observe that some landlords are installing inexpensive air heat pumps in uninsulated houses instead of renovating the buildings.
Ultimately, however, this does not help the climate or the tenants, whose operating costs would nevertheless rise.
Final compromise proposal
In Altmaier's blockade, however, political considerations should also have played a role: Altmaier was dissatisfied with an agreement by the grand coalition on the obligation to test employers, according to government circles.
This would put a strain on the economy, he said.
Altmaier argued that further burdens, in this case for landlords, should be avoided.
In addition, the Minister of Economic Affairs repeatedly pointed out that the Union parliamentary group was also against the 50:50 rule.
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The other four ministries then submitted a final compromise proposal. The 50:50 rule should be limited to three years and linked to a so-called motion for a resolution. The future federal government would then be obliged to work out a basic regulation for the distribution of CO2 costs within three years. Because of the longer lead time, the energetic state of individual buildings could have been included more precisely.
Altmaier and Minister of Construction Horst Seehofer spoke to the leaders of the Union faction for the last time last Wednesday.
But the negotiating partners have not yet received any feedback on what came out of the conversation.
Some already assume that the negotiations have failed.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs announced on request that negotiations were still ongoing.
Landlords rely on the polluter pays principle
The SPD considers it socially unjust to pass the entire CO2 costs on to the tenants.
Although they could regulate their own energy consumption, they have little influence on whether their apartment is better insulated or equipped with more modern heating, argue the Social Democrats.
If landlords were to share in the costs, the incentive to switch to low-CO₂ technology would also increase.
Representatives of the Union, however, argued for a long time that passing the CO₂ costs on to lessors would be contrary to the "polluter pays principle".
After all, landlords have no influence on the consumption behavior of tenants.
Accordingly, they shouldn't pay anything for it.
The landlords' associations had also spoken out almost word for word beforehand.
Around a third of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany are attributable to the building sector. By 2030, emissions in this sector will have to drop by around 67 percent compared to 1990 levels to 70 million tons in order to comply with the emission levels set out in the Climate Protection Act. The building sector is the only one that, according to the Ministry of the Environment, has not met its 2020 CO2 targets.