After the Karlsruhe ruling: 60 billion hole – what options are there?


As of: November 21, 2023 6:51 a.m

The Karlsruhe ruling caught the federal government off guard. 60 billion euros are no longer available. The government is discussing the course, what options are there?

Just under a week after the Karlsruhe decision, it was clear: the traffic light government had no agreed plan B in the drawer in the event that the constitutional judges overturned the debt reallocation. The dimensions of the decision only slowly become clear.

One thing is certain: the KTF climate fund now has 60 billion euros less available. A budget freeze was imposed as an emergency measure, but what can the federal government do in the medium term?

Spend less money

The FDP is primarily in favor of this option. The ruling is an opportunity, after many years of incurring debt, to only spend what you actually have. The climate fund has its own income from emissions trading and carbon dioxide pricing, which will continue to flow.

However, the fund would have almost 30 percent less resources available by 2027 if the 60 billion euros were to be completely eliminated from the KTF. That would mean less funding for climate protection, economic restructuring and subsidies. Economics Minister Robert Habeck warns about this.

Increase revenue

There is probably a lot of support for this among the SPD and the Greens. There are repeated calls from both parties to place greater burdens on wealthy or very well-earning people in particular.

However, the FDP rejects tax increases. Another variant would be to increase the income of the climate fund through a higher CO2 price. However, that would make refueling and heating more expensive.

Weaken or abolish the debt brake

The debt brake was anchored in the Basic Law in 2009 to prevent politics at the expense of later generations. The federal government is therefore only allowed to take out loans to a very limited extent. The Greens in particular consider the debt brake requirements to be too rigid and state investments would be slowed down.

Many people in the SPD also think this way. However, a two-thirds majority would be needed to change the debt brake in the Basic Law. The Union rejects this, as does the FDP.

A special climate protection fund

After the Russian attack on Ukraine, the Bundestag wrote the 100 billion euro special fund for the Bundeswehr into the Basic Law with a two-thirds majority. Something similar would be conceivable when it comes to climate protection. However, this would require the consent of the Union.

Explain the emergency again

SPD leader Saskia Esken and the DGB are calling for the debt brake to be suspended again this year and next. Just like between 2020 and 2022, when an emergency was declared – first because of the pandemic, then also because of the energy crisis. That’s why hundreds of billions of euros in debt were incurred during this time. According to the Basic Law, the debt brake can be suspended in the event of natural disasters and extraordinary emergency situations that are beyond the state’s control.

Some people doubt whether this is currently the case; another lawsuit in Karlsruhe would be conceivable. The advantage of this option: The coalition parties could declare the emergency with the government majority – so they would not need the Union for this.

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