05 Oct 2020, 13:57
Sören Amelang

No more Autobahn: Germany's Greens call for halt of new highway construction

Süddeutsche Zeitung / Guardian

One year before Germany's general election, the country's Green Party is calling for a radical rethink of transport policy by putting a moratorium on the construction of new motorways and state roads. "We need a different transport policy," party leader Annalena Baerbock told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "The plans for autobahns and federal highways must be fundamentally reviewed for compliance with climate goals, necessity and economic efficiency," said Anton Hofreiter, head of the party's parliamentary group. "The government's transport planning cements countless road projects for the next 10 years and counteracts Germany's climate targets," said Hofreiter, adding that the transport sector must also make a substantial contribution to solving the climate crisis. He called for a policy focus on a massive expansion of bus and rail services and the strengthening of cycling and networked mobility services.

Climate change looks set to be a key issue shaping election policy, according to surveys. The Green Party, which is currently polling as the country's second strongest party with about 20 percent, is likely to benefit from this. At the same time, polls show the distinct possibility of a coalition between the party and Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU. The current government, a coalition between CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD), has announced a major climate policy package, which also includes a CO2 price for transport. But Markus Balser reports in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the transport ministry currently plans to build 80 entirely new motorway projects and 200 extensions. The government has earmarked more money in the next 10 years for roads than for rail projects.

The Green party leadership also said a particularly controversial autobahn construction project, the A49 north of the country's financial capital Frankfurt, should be stopped. Police have recently begun clearing protest camps in the region. Over the weekend, thousands of climate activists gathered in the stretch of woodland known as Dannenröder forest. About 27 hectares (67 acres) of forest are to be cleared by next February to make way for a new three-kilometre stretch of the A49 dual carriageway, reports Philip Oltermann in the Guardian.

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