23 Jan 2023, 13:32
Sören Amelang

German transport minister rejects autobahn speed limit after report shows climate benefits

Clean Energy Wire /

German transport minister Volker Wissing has renewed his rejection of a general speed limit on the country’s autobahns after a report found that the measure could save almost three times more emissions than previously thought. "Speed belongs to the citizens' own responsibility as long as others are not endangered," the Free Democrat (FDP) said, according to a report on "The state should hold back here." Wissing added that high energy prices "are already causing many people to drive more slowly." Germany’s environment agency UBA said in a report that a motorway speed limit of 120 kilometres per hour would reduce CO2 emissions by about 6.7 million tonnes a year. In an earlier report from 2020, using a different methodology, the UBA had said that a speed limit would reduce emissions by 2.6 million tonnes.

Germany aims to become climate neutral by 2045, and Wissing is under great pressure to finally launch a programme to lower transport emissions, which have remained stubbornly high for decades. The government is currently working on a comprehensive climate action programme to get the country on track towards its climate targets. Emission-cutting steps in the transport sector are a particular focus, because the sector’s CO2 output continues to exceed government plans. Transport and environmental association Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD) said a speed limit was “indispensable” to make the sector more climate-friendly. “No other transport measure can contribute more to climate protection. In addition, it can be implemented immediately, and at almost no cost,” the lobby group said. But a transport ministry spokesperson said a speed limit was currently not under consideration.

A general speed limit is politically controversial in Germany, and has been discussed for many years. Both the Greens and Social Democrats were in favour of introducing it, but the pro-business FDP prevented adoption in the government’s coalition treaty. Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a social Democrat (SPD), said last year: “This government didn’t agree on it. And that’s why it won’t be introduced.” Germany is the only country in Europe that has no speed limit on large parts of its motorway network.

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