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“All climate protection measures must be put to the test immediately”

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The Federal Audit Office criticizes the lack of a clear line for the different instruments for further climate protection. Among other things, the authority criticized adherence to climate-damaging subsidies in a report released Thursday. In doing so, “the federal government is even frustrating its objectives,” explained the president of the Court of Accounts, Kay Scheller.

Scheller demanded: “All climate protection measures must be put to the test immediately.” Without a course correction, the government’s ambitious 2030 climate targets are unlikely to be achieved.

However, to change this, it is not enough simply to adopt new measures; these would also have to be “single source”. The current toolbox consists of “too many measures that do little or nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Scheller explained.

The report specifically mentions tax concessions for diesel fuel and the reduced rate of VAT on meat and animal products as climate-harming subsidies. Current questions about security of supply and affordability of energy are also examples. “Because if climate protection measures are not economically affordable and socially unacceptable, and money also flows into ineffective measures, this fundamentally jeopardizes the transformation process.”

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Overall, the government subsidies report for 2021 called the €16.2bn subsidies positive for achieving climate and environmental goals. However, in a 2018 report, the Federal Environment Agency called the €65.4 billion subsidies harmful to the environment. “That not only costs a lot of money, but also inhibits climate-friendly investments,” criticized the Court of Auditors.

The Federal Court of Accounts calls for coordinated action

The federal government can put an end to the negative effects on climate protection through consistent action and, at the same time, create a financial margin for climate-friendly spending. Reference is made to Germany’s international commitment to phase out climate-harming subsidies by 2025 at the latest.

In general, the Court of Auditors warns that subsidies for greater climate protection must be used “efficiently and resolutely”. Currently, however, the funding landscape here is “complex” and often uncoordinated. In some cases, the funds in the estimated budget would not be used at all.

Until now, the government has also not sufficiently considered “the interdepartmental dimension” of the measures. “However, to take into account the general dimension of climate protection, functional and continuous coordination between departments is required,” warned the Court of Auditors. So far, this is “poor”.

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The authority requires that “specific goals be formulated for financing programs,” for example, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved or specific energy savings. The effectiveness must then be evaluated regularly and the respective measure must be adjusted at intervals of no more than three years.

In principle, measures where there is a “favorable financing lever and greater efficiency in the use of funds” should also be prioritized. To do this, all previous climate protection measures would have to be “immediately put to the test”, the Court of Auditors demands.

In future, only those measures that “demonstrably and economically contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases” should be financed. If this reduction does not occur, adjustments must be made or the measurement must be terminated. Uniform calculation methods are also required for this.

[Alle aktuellen Entwicklungen im Ukraine-Krieg können Sie hier in unserem Newsblog verfolgen.]

Annual climate protection reports should be designed to be more meaningful. In a “climate budget”, the government must give an overview of “whether and to what extent expenditures and revenues in the federal budget promote or impede climate protection”.

As a result, “conflicts of interest can be identified and the financial effects of climate protection policy on the federal budget can be presented in a transparent manner.” “Weather tracking” should now “make visible the climate relevance of household spending and income.”

As proof of the lack of efficiency, the Court of Auditors also refers to the ever-growing reserves of the government’s Energy and Climate Fund (EKF). In 2020, i.e. before the further transfer of €60 billion of unclaimed Corona funds, which has since taken place, these would have already amounted to €31 billion. “This suggests significant implementation shortfalls in EKF programs,” criticized the authority, because bunkering reserves “do not contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” (AFP-Reuters)

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