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Environment: Expert advice: Transport is lagging behind when it comes to climate protection

Environment: Expert advice: Transport is lagging behind when it comes to climate protection

The climate protection requirements for traffic can only be achieved with driving bans, says Minister Wissing – and insists on the planned reform. A new report shows just how big the gap is.

According to the independent Council of Experts on Climate Issues, the transport sector also caused significantly more exhaust gases in 2023 than legally permitted. Instead of the permitted 133 million tons of CO2, 146 million tons of greenhouse gases were produced in traffic last year, the experts write in their test report published in Berlin on data from the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) presented in March. This means that the transport sector has missed its climate target for the third year in a row.

According to UBA calculations, the building sector also narrowly missed its target, which the expert council neither wants to confirm nor reject given the great uncertainty in the calculated data. Nevertheless, the legally required immediate adjustment program must now be presented here too, say the experts. The responsible ministers have three months to do this.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) has threatened weekend driving bans – the traffic goal cannot be achieved otherwise. He wants to put pressure on a rapid reform of the climate protection law, which should abolish this obligation. The Federal Cabinet has already passed it, but an agreement in the Bundestag is still pending.

The debate about driving bans is not about the effect of individual measures, but about the controversial reform, said the deputy chairwoman of the expert council, Brigitte Knopf. “There is no serious debate about the measures. So, it would actually be important to look: what measures are needed now.” You could also change tax regulations on company cars, for example, or increase the CO2 price earlier, which makes heating and refueling more expensive.

Around 10 percent less greenhouse gases

Despite uncertainties, the expert council also confirms the sharp decline in emissions last year of around 10 percent compared to 2022. Emissions fell from 750 to 674 million tons of CO2 equivalents. For better comparability, other greenhouse gases are converted into CO2.

This is the highest percentage decline within a year since 1990. Like the UBA and Federal Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), the expert council does not attribute this to effective climate protection policy, but to the weakening economy and the weather. “Without the decline in energy-intensive industry and the renewed mild weather in 2023, emissions would have been significantly higher,” said the chairman of the council, Hans-Martin Henning. Under other conditions, the overall annual target would probably not have been achieved. However, as temperatures rise, it could be that less heating is needed in the long run.

Germany has set itself the goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent by 1990 compared to 1990. According to the Federal Environment Agency’s assessment, Germany is on track here, but the expert council has not evaluated the calculations. However, the Council pointed out that Germany must also achieve its European climate goals. By 2045, Germany wants to be climate neutral, meaning it will not emit more greenhouse gases than can be stored.

The controversial immediate programs

If individual areas fail to meet the requirements, the responsible federal government ministries must follow up with immediate programs. The annual permissible emission levels for sectors such as industry, energy, transport and buildings are set out in the Climate Protection Act. The measures decided so far are not sufficient, emphasized the expert council.

The exact climate targets for individual economic sectors are a thorn in the side of the FDP. In principle, the coalition of the SPD, Greens and FDP has actually already agreed on a reform: According to this, the main thing that will be important in the future is whether greenhouse gas savings targets are met across all areas. However, the traffic light factions in the Bundestag have not yet been able to agree on the details, and the Greens fear a softening of the agreement.

Is there a lack of money for climate protection?

If the climate plans presented last summer were not enough, the situation has worsened since then, the experts note. After the Federal Constitutional Court ripped a billion dollar hole in the federal government’s financial planning in November. The cuts subsequently negotiated in the government also affect the Climate and Transformation Fund (KTF), an important pot for promoting the climate-friendly restructuring of German industry.

“The KTF ruling results in funding cuts this year and narrows the scope for the following years. Since almost half of the measures in the climate protection program are of a fiscal nature, this reduces the probability that the assumed reduction effect will actually occur,” explained the deputy chair of the Expert Council, Brigitte Knopf, on expected greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the climate protection program in the building sector is being implemented “less ambitiously,” according to the experts. “A reduced effect of some measures is also to be expected in the transport sector, and an increase in car traffic can also be observed.”

The Expert Council is a committee of scientists. According to the Federal Climate Protection Act, his tasks include the annual review of the Federal Environment Agency’s preliminary data on greenhouse gas emissions from the previous year. However, final data will not be available until next year.

Source: Stern

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