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German government coalition agrees to bring disputed heating bill to parliament before summer recess

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition said Tuesday it would bring a disputed heating bill to parliament this week for consideration.

The bill is a key element in the country’s ambitious climate policy, but it had seemed increasingly unlikely in recent weeks that it would still be brought to the Bundestag before the parliament’s summer break in early July, because the coalition had appeared to not be able to agree on it.

The issue had stoked an impression of disarray in the governing coalition and helped push it down in polls.

But on Tuesday evening, the chairpersons of the parliamentary groups of the three governing parties said they had found a compromise on how to improve the bill so that they could bring it to parliament later this week.

“The heating transition is practicable, climate protection becomes concrete, the clear signal for the switch to climate-friendly heating is set,” said Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck of the environmentalist Greens, according to German news agency dpa.

The latest compromise wasn’t immediately laid out in all its details, but among other changes, the bill will include more people from lower income groups than before who will be eligible for government subsidies when they buy new, more environmentally friendly heating systems.

Last month, the environmentalist Greens had accused the libertarian Free Democratic Party of backtracking on agreements by refusing to let lawmakers debate the bill, which is about replacing home heating systems with greener alternatives.

The bill was approved by the Cabinet in March after months of intense haggling between the parties. A major stumbling block was the Green party’s demand that the installation of new oil or gas furnaces should be banned from next year to ensure that Germany can meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045.

Populist newspapers have claimed that installing climate-friendly heat pumps will be hugely expensive and may not be feasible in older buildings, though such systems are widely used in neighboring countries. Experts counter that a failure to replace fossil fuel heating will end up costing homeowners more because the price of oil and gas is expected to rise sharply in the coming decades due to emissions surcharges agreed on at the European level.

The Associated Press

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