climate and traffic
Coalition continues to wrestle in street dispute
The expansion of Germany’s traffic arteries and climate protection have long been points of contention in traffic lights. Now the coalition leaders have tried to cut the knot.
The traffic light continues to struggle for new motorway construction and climate protection. After more than three hours, the coalition leaders ended their deliberations on a possible acceleration of planning procedures in traffic without a result. The German press agency learned this from coalition circles. However, there were “constructive talks,” it said on Thursday evening in Berlin. Negotiations will continue in the coming weeks.
The chairmen of the traffic light parties and parliamentary groups met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in the Chancellery late in the afternoon. In addition to faster construction of roads and bridges, there should also be significantly more money for the renovation of the ailing railway network. For months, the traffic light has also been looking in vain for a solution as to how an immediate climate protection program announced in the coalition agreement can be launched. In it, the federal government wants to define how it intends to achieve the German climate goals. There is a big gap here, especially in traffic.
Environment Minister Steffi Lemke’s (Greens) plans for biofuel are also controversial: she wants a gradual phasing out of biofuels obtained from plants for food and animal feed by 2030. According to a draft law, a reduction in the very high demand for agricultural goods from biofuel production could make a significant contribution to relieving the strained market situation for food.
Total package planned
After the coalition committee, there was talk of working on an overall package. A possible compromise line for faster planning processes for motorways was already considered in advance: The coalition could agree on a few selected, urgent projects.
Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) wants the future construction of railway lines, but also the construction of motorways, for which an urgent need has been identified, to be in the “overriding public interest”. This is intended to speed up the approval process and facilitate court proceedings.
An outstanding public interest already applies to the construction of wind turbines and solar systems. In political Berlin there is often talk of more “LNG speed” these days: New terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the north were built in less than a year, the reason for this was also the waiver of an environmental impact assessment.
“LNG speed” for highways?
Wissing wants to take up essential elements of the LNG Acceleration Act, as stated in a draft law by the ministry. An efficient transport infrastructure is of fundamental importance for economic strength and the associated growth and prosperity. According to the ministry, road traffic will increase according to forecasts and traffic jams should be reduced. The minister is primarily concerned with bottlenecks in the network.
Wissing said on Thursday in RTL/ntv-“Frühstart” that it was not a question of building roads: “It’s a question of whether we build them at a snail’s pace or whether we build them quickly. One thing is clear: Only the roads that we need will be built.” Ten times as many goods are transported by road than by rail. “So if you don’t want any more roads, you want our industrial society to be dismantled.” But Wissing also emphasized that he wanted to invest more money in rail. He spoke of “a few billion” euros.
Lemke had made it clear that the preservation of biotopes and ecosystems should not take second place to road construction. The climate goals cannot be achieved with new motorways, the opposite is the case. Green Group Vice Julia Verlinden told the German Press Agency: “We urgently need more acceleration in climate protection – not on motorways.” Money and staff are needed for projects that protect the climate. “And not for projects that harm the climate. Building highways cuts through nature, eats up resources and harms the climate because new and wider highways always lead to more traffic.”
Transport sector far from climate targets
Green leader Ricarda Lang complained that the transport sector was far from the climate goals. “Instead of speculating about further climate-damaging measures, such as accelerating the construction of new motorways, we urgently need a plan for how traffic can achieve its climate targets,” Lang demanded in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” in the direction of Wissing.
The FDP rejected criticism of Wissing. “If the Greens are serious about their warning calls for more climate protection, then they have to open up to a somewhat longer use of nuclear energy,” the party leadership said on Thursday. “Otherwise it’s just ideological politics against the car, which can ultimately also be driven in a climate-neutral manner.”
The issue of nuclear power is particularly controversial between the Greens and the FDP. Chancellor Scholz had decided in a word of power that the three last remaining German nuclear power plants would not go offline as planned at the turn of the year, but would continue to run until mid-April – but then it should finally be over.
Environmental groups warned that faster road planning processes would undermine environmental protection. The President of the Nabu Nature Conservation Union, Jörg-Andreas Krüger, told the dpa: “There must be no carte blanche for building new motorways more quickly.” Nabu expects the Greens to focus on climate protection and biodiversity. “Anything else would be a massive disappointment and a readjustment of the Greens’ policy.” BUND Managing Director Antje von Broock said: “The FDP is launching another major attack on climate protection with the absurd proposal to accelerate the construction and expansion of motorways and to declare it to be of outstanding public interest.”