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Environmental economist Ottmar Edenhofer: "The focus must be on the CO2 price"


The environmental economist Ottmar Edenhofer advocates higher climate taxes in the fight against the greenhouse effect - and for a refund of the money to the citizens.

Enlarge image

Jänschwalde brown coal power plant in Peitz, Brandenburg

Photo: Patrick Pleul / DPA


Mr. Edenhofer, the federal government wants to drastically tighten its CO2 targets so that Germany becomes climate-neutral by 2045.

Can it be done?


: The decision transfers the European Green Deal to Germany.

Not more but also not less.

The plan is ambitious, but feasible.

Provided that politics stops setting new goals.

Now it is time to finally talk about the measures that can be taken to achieve it.

Thats more important.


Politicians are only doing what the Federal Constitutional Court has asked them to do, namely to present a roadmap for the next few decades.


: Right, that is also necessary to ensure planning security for long-term investments.

But it is counterproductive if some are now calling for climate neutrality to be achieved by 2040.

There is now the Green Deal and the Constitutional Court ruling.

These are the right specifications, now it has to be about implementation.

An outbid competition for the goals doesn't get us any further.


What will help us then?


: We need an increase in the price of CO2, and it has to be socially fair at the same time.

A fair climate policy is essential for their success.

"The citizens are facing considerable burdens"


The SPD considers the CO2 price per se to be unsocial and rejects any further increases.


: A CO2 price can be made socially just.

If we want to achieve the goals, it has to increase significantly.

Instead of the currently 25 euros per tonne, we could start at 50 euros.

If the goals are missed, it should automatically increase.

At the end of the decade, it could be well over 130 euros.

At the same time, we have to keep in mind that such a price path would be associated with considerable burdens for the citizens.


The fuel at the filling station would then cost 36 cents more per liter.


: Indeed, and therefore I have a certain understanding of the position of the Social Democrats.




: Higher CO2 prices place a greater burden on small incomes than on large ones.

Those who earn little usually rent an old building that has not been renovated.

He drives to work in a small gasoline car and spends a larger part of his income on energy-intensive products.

That is why politicians should reimburse the citizens for the CO2 revenue, and this from a social point of view.


What do you recommend?


: Initially, the government could no longer finance the EEG surcharge through the electricity price, but from the income from CO2 pricing.

This lowers the price of electricity and relieves the lower incomes more than the large ones.

In the course of the next few years, the income from CO2 pricing should also be reimbursed as a lump sum;

this would also benefit low-income recipients, as our calculations show.

If we do it right, climate protection can be socially fair and further divisions in society can be prevented.


Many Social Democrats don't believe that.

They hold their recipe for "neoliberal prohibition policy" because low-wage earners are exposed to the higher prices.

"The CO2 price sends the decisive signal for business and consumers"


: First of all, the CO2 price is not neoliberal if you associate it with social equilibrium.

And secondly, less well-off layers can also react to higher CO2 prices.

Especially when you take into account that the short term is less important than the long term.

If citizens know that the price of carbon will double over time, they may not buy an electric car tomorrow.

But possibly in five years, when there are more and cheaper models.

The CO2 price sends the decisive signal to the economy and consumers that we are no longer allowed to emit as much carbon dioxide as before.


Many in the SPD are of the opinion that more can be achieved with government guidelines.


: And what requirements should that be?


The state could, for example, tighten the CO2 limit values ​​for manufacturers' vehicle fleets.


: That's true, but that also makes cars more expensive and would especially burden those on lower incomes.

In addition, the state then generates no income that it can give back to the citizens.

The effect on the climate is also limited, as has been shown in recent years.

Because road traffic emissions have risen despite stricter limit values.

The cars have gotten heavier and there has been more driving.

Emissions will only decrease if limit values ​​are supplemented by CO2 prices.


The state could ban combustion cars.


: That also harbors dangers because millions of citizens will probably buy a diesel before the deadline that would drive around for ten years and damage the climate.

A rising CO2 price dampens this effect.


If it is up to you, should climate policy-makers decide on a CO2 price and then put their hands on their laps?


: No.

In terms of climate policy, we will continue to need limit values, specifications and limited funding programs in the future.

But the carbon price must be at the center because it shapes the long-term expectations and attitudes of consumers and entrepreneurs.

Some recommend starting with government guidelines and only resorting to CO2 prices if that is not enough.

I am for the reverse order of precedence.


Why are you so sure that it will work?


: Take the coal electricity.

The fact that we can shut down fossil fuel power plants earlier than planned is not thanks to the federal government's coal phase-out law.

But the rising CO2 prices in European emissions trading.

Nothing shows more clearly what potential lies in higher CO2 prices and in a smart regulatory policy.


Now you just have to explain that to the SPD.


: I am confident that the Social Democrats have no fundamental problem with the concept.

They are concerned with social equilibrium: that is an important but solvable problem.

Source: spiegel

All business articles on 2021-05-16

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