German Finance Minister Christian Lindner has warned that enacting stricter building codes to combat climate change could have dangerous consequences, potentially benefiting far-right political parties. This comes in response to the energy performance directive, a key provision in European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s proposed ‘Green Deal’ package of climate legislation, which aims to renovate older buildings to decarbonize the housing stock by 2050.
In an interview with Politico, Lindner criticized the plan, describing it as “enormously dangerous” and expressing concerns about its impact on social peace. He argued that people might feel that the policy makes it harder for them to live in their own homes and afford the necessary changes. Lindner, who heads the Free Democratic Party (FDP), a junior partner in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling coalition, also linked green mandates and EU regulations to the rise of parties like Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The EU asserts that housing contributes to 35% of greenhouse gas emissions in the region and needs to be made more energy-efficient to meet the climate goals for 2050. However, Lindner proposed that the EU should allocate funds to other climate-friendly projects, such as improving the bloc’s energy infrastructure. He urged von der Leyen to temporarily pause the climate agenda due to the economic difficulties caused by high energy prices.
Lindner’s concerns about the potential backlash to stricter building codes are not unfounded. The recent heating bill, which banned oil and gas systems in favor of cleaner heat pumps, faced significant backlash. This backlash can serve as a lesson about the potential public resistance to such measures. The AfD, currently the second most-popular party in Germany with up to 22% support, has capitalized on the dissatisfaction with the government’s climate policies.
Von der Leyen, who is set to deliver a “state of the European Union” speech, is expected to reaffirm her commitment to the Green Deal and emphasize its benefits for EU industry. She aims to ensure a collaborative implementation phase for the program.
However, Germany and the EU are grappling with soaring energy prices following an embargo on Russia and the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines that supply Germany with Russian natural gas. The cause of the pipeline explosions remains unknown, with journalist Seymour Hersh pointing the blame at the US government and some US media outlets suggesting Ukraine’s involvement.
In light of these challenges, Lindner’s call for the EU to invest in other climate-friendly projects and pause the climate agenda highlights the need to balance environmental goals with economic considerations. Stricter building codes may have unintended consequences, such as social unrest or political shifts, and policymakers must carefully navigate these risks to ensure a sustainable and equitable transition to a greener future.