In order to achieve its climate goals, the federal government has launched a new tax. Since January, companies have had to pay a tax of 25 euros per tonne of CO2 caused. This should make fossil fuels less attractive and promote the switch to climate-friendly technologies. Climate protectors are happy. However, the tax also affects tenants and homeowners who heat with conventional raw materials.
According to calculations by the German Emissions Trading Authority, heating oil will become more expensive by 8 cents per liter in the first year after the introduction of the new tax. Those who run their heating with natural gas have to expect a surcharge of 0.6 cents per kilowatt hour – and that’s just the beginning. In the coming years, the CO2 tax is to increase gradually until it reaches a value of 55 euros per ton in 2025. This means that heating costs are also likely to rise sharply.
As a rule, tenants have no influence on the choice of heating. The owner decides whether the oil burner is replaced. According to current case law, landlords are still allowed to pass the additional costs from the CO2 tax on to the tenants in full.
The additional burden can be considerable: For a 70 square meter apartment in a poorly renovated apartment building with oil heating, tenants pay an average of around 125 euros more per year, according to calculations by the consulting company CO2-Online. For residents of an apartment of the same size in a well-renovated house with district heating, the costs only increase by around 25 euros.
Criticism from the tenants’ association
This amount has to be offset by falling electricity prices. Because, according to the federal government, part of the proceeds from the CO2 levy should flow into the EEG surcharge. This serves to promote renewable energies and was 6.76 cents per kilowatt hour last year. At the turn of the year, the surcharge fell to 6.40 cents per kilowatt hour, so electricity should tend to become cheaper.
However, experts point out that the energy required to heat an apartment exceeds the electricity consumption many times over – so the bottom line is that the ancillary costs are likely to rise anyway. “The CO2 price threatens to put a disproportionate burden on low-income tenant households,” warns the Federal Director of the German Tenants’ Association, Melanie Weber-Moritz.
These often lived in buildings with poor energy efficiency and were already suffering from high heating costs. “You have no leeway to offset the CO2 price by changing your behavior,” says Weber-Moritz. The government has been supporting low-income citizens since this year with a supplement to housing benefits averaging 15 euros per month. But those who are not entitled to the funding have to pay the additional costs out of their own pocket.
Who should pay
The German Environmental Aid (DUH) sees yet another problem: Because tenants and not landlords have to pay the CO2 surcharge, the association criticizes that there is no steering effect. That contradicts the climate targets in the building sector. The environmental aid calls for landlords to be held accountable. Only if owners were to bear the full price of CO2 would they have an incentive to invest in energy-efficient renovations and low-CO2 heating systems.
Greens and leftists are also demanding that landlords take over the costs in full. “The CO2 price is completely wrongly addressed with tenants,” says the deputy group leader of the Left, Caren Lay. Union and SPD are at odds. While the Social Democrats proposed a 50/50 solution in a key issues paper in autumn 2020, the CDU and CSU see a division of the CO2 price critically. Landlords have no influence on the consumer behavior of tenants, argues the legal and consumer policy spokesman for the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, Jan-Marco Luczak. “That is neither fair nor just,” he says to the dpa.
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