At first glance, what FDP leader Christian Lindner said in the ARD summer interview seemed reasonable at first glance (from 7:40 minutes): When it comes to the climate, unlike the previous government, “you no longer want just the individual sector, i.e. the transport, but instead calculate the goals more across sectors, because progress can be made more quickly in certain areas than in others”.
“Cross-sector goals” – that sounds good at first, after a plan, after “holistic” thinking. But that means something completely different: we at the FDP cannot or do not want to achieve our goals in the transport sector, so other departments should make more savings. (Here is a thread about the extent to which this is compatible with the coalition agreement.)
Which sector is easier to decarbonize?
Lindner’s basic idea is actually quite correct: in some sectors the fruit actually hangs lower than in others. These should be picked preferentially. For example, power supply is easier to decarbonize than transport.
Gregor Honsel has been a TR editor since 2006. He believes that many complex problems have simple, easy-to-understand, but wrong solutions.
Separate sector goals can fuel counterproductive competition for shared resources. For example in arable land: They could serve as CO₂ sinks and thus improve the climate balance of agriculture. They could be covered with photovoltaic free-field systems and thus be added to the energy sector. Biomethane for home heating could be produced on them, which would benefit the construction sector. Or biofuel, which could benefit the traffic balance.
The same applies to hydrogen: it could be used in transport, in the energy system or in the chemical industry, with different consequences for the climate balance of the individual departments. However, which path is taken should depend less on what makes the most economic sense than on which sector has the greatest pressure to act and is able to buy the resources away from the other departments.
Traffic is always behind
So away with the sector targets? Not so fast. There were good reasons for introducing them. When the Federal Constitutional Court committed the then red-black coalition to stricter climate protection in 2021, it was clear: Things couldn’t go on like this. While some sectors have been on relatively good paths, others have always lagged behind. Especially the traffic.
The cause was not just factual difficulties such as the increasing volume of traffic. After all, the different savings potentials of the various sectors are already taken into account in the targets. The energy industry, for example, is to reduce its emissions by 84 percent by 2040 compared to 1990, transport by 52 percent and agriculture by 31 percent.
No, one of the main reasons was always political unwillingness. The wickedness of the Ministry of Transport under CSU leadership is legendary in this regard. So the Environment Minister at the time, Svenja Schulze (SPD), pushed through a climate council in order to rein in the individual departments.
If you want to say goodbye to this tight control, you have to trust that all departments will contribute to the common goal to the best of their ability. But the new Minister of Transport, Volker Wissing (FDP), does little to justify this trust. If he were allowed to get away with this refusal to work, other departments would have to impose stricter austerity measures and take the appropriate political beating while he slims his foot.
Conclusion: Yes, the sole focus on a common goal would be a good thing, but not with this political staff.
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