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CO2 price burdens low earners: consumer advice center publishes study

Study reveals: Low-income households are disproportionately burdened by the carbon price.

The Federation of Consumer Organizations (vzbv) has commissioned a study on the impact of the CO2 price introduced at the beginning of the year from the Protestant Study Community Research Center (FEST) and the Forum for Ecological and Social Market Economy (FÖS). given. Their result is now available: According to this, the CO2 price is a particularly heavy burden on households with a low income - countermeasures that have already been considered are not sufficient to compensate for the financial disadvantages. The vzbv has not yet published the concrete values ​​for the various income levels on which the study is based.

Low earners get significantly less money back

The authors of the study have examined the effects of the CO2 price in 2021. They come to the conclusion that people with incomes in the top 30 percent get back more than a third of their mobility costs. People from the bottom 50 percent can only expect a reimbursement of ten to 17 percent in terms of increased travel costs.

Commuter allowance makes the difference

The main reason for the unequal treatment of the different income groups is the commuter allowance: Because of the higher marginal tax rate, higher earners benefit more from it. The researchers also examined the reduction in the EEG surcharge and the introduction of a mobility premium from the 21st kilometer - both instruments are intended to compensate for an excessive burden from the CO2 price. But according to the researchers, low earners benefit little or not at all from these measures.

E-cars still too expensive for many

Vzbv board member Klaus Müller is therefore calling on politicians to compensate for the imbalance determined. He proposes a significant expansion of the public transport system and a mobility allowance that is independent of income and tax rates. Although consumers can avoid the additional burden of the CO2 price, this requires a comparatively expensive electric car, for example, which is not affordable for people with low incomes. And in rural areas there are few alternatives to owning a car. Therefore, new relief would have to apply to all income brackets, regardless of where they live.

CO2 price will rise to 55 euros per tonne by 2025

The price is currently 25 euros per tonne of CO2 - a liter of fuel has so far increased the price by around seven cents. In order to make the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas even less attractive, the price of CO2 is increasing every year. In 2022 it will be EUR 30 per tonne, EUR 35 in 2023, EUR 45 in 2024 and EUR 55 in 2025.


Experts see the pricing of CO2 as an important tool in achieving the 1.5 degree target - i.e. limiting the man-made global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. The CO2 price, also known as the carbon price, makes the use of fossil fuels less attractive. In an economy initially geared more towards the use of fossil fuels, this is associated with increased costs for most of those involved. As part of a study, scientists have now found that low-income households suffer disproportionately from the carbon price.

It makes no sense that people with a low income should pay a disproportionate amount to mitigate climate change - CO2-driving consumption, also in the form of mileage, is more of a companion for people with high financial strength. For example, Klaus Müller, head of the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations that commissioned the study, calls for relief for all those affected by increased mobility costs, regardless of income, taxes and place of residence, in combination with a significant expansion of public transport.


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