German parliament passes law to phase out gas and oil heating

By Riham Alkousaa and Christian Kraemer

BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany’s lower house of parliament passed a bill on Friday on phasing out oil and gas heating systems after months of wrangling, but the legislation was criticized by conservatives as too costly and environmentalists as not strong enough.

The bill, part of Germany’s drive to become climate neutral by 2045, had spawned a dispute within the ruling coalition between the Greens party and the pro-business FDP party that at one point nearly pulled apart the government.

The bill aims to cut greenhouse emissions in Germany’s building sector, which was responsible for 112 million tonnes of greenhouse gases last year, or 15% of the country’s total emissions.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the new measures would cut around 40 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030. But his ministry acknowledged that watering down the bill’s original draft from April, which would have imposed the green heating switch much earlier, would mean Germany won’t reach its emissions goal in the sector by 2030.

Under pressure from the FDP, the ruling coalition agreed in June to dilute the bill to give more time for citizens and landlords to switch their boilers.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner said the new version was practical and open to technology.

“We have fundamentally changed it … It is no longer a law that people should be afraid of because the state climbs into their boiler room,” Lindner said in a post on social media platform X on Friday.

But conservative opposition lawmakers said the new law would still be a burden on people’s wallets and complained about too many bureaucratic requirements to get government subsidies.

Environmental groups criticised the bill as it will allow constitutionally enshrined climate targets to be missed, adding that various options the legislation offers as alternatives for renewable energy heat pumps such as hydrogen and biomass were too expensive and risky for consumers.

Some 399 parliamentarians voted in favour of the bill, 275 opposed and five abstained.

Under the bill, heating systems installed in new developments and in old buildings located in areas with a municipal heating plan will have to run on 65% renewable energy.

Gas heaters may still be installed from next year if they can be converted to hydrogen, including in new buildings if they are not part of new developments.

The renewable energy boiler switch requirement will not take effect until municipalities submit their binding heating plan, which is not expected before 2026 in smaller districts and 2028 in larger ones.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa and Christian KraemerEditing by Friederike Heine and Frances Kerry)