Transport: New coalition dispute over climate protection in car traffic

New coalition dispute over climate protection in car traffic

Transport Minister Volker Wissing is “painting horror scenarios on the wall so that we don’t have to do anything in the future,” says Greenpeace mobility expert Clara Thompson. photo

© Michael Kappeler/dpa

The discussions on a changed mechanism for the climate targets are dragging on. The transport minister threatens with the emotive word driving bans – is this scenario now bringing movement?

The dispute over climate protection is breaking out again in the traffic light coalition. The SPD and the Greens rejected threats from the Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) sharply rejected possible car driving bans to reduce climate-damaging emissions in the transport sector.

The ministry made it clear that this scenario should be averted by quickly passing a planned reform of the Climate Protection Act in the Bundestag. The FDP demanded that the Greens give up “blocking” the plans. Environmental associations reacted indignantly to Wissing’s initiative and called for more climate protection in transport.

In a letter to the leaders of the government factions of the SPD, Greens and FDP, the minister warned of drastic cuts for drivers, including driving bans on weekends, if the coalition does not agree on the reform soon. If the amendment introduced by the cabinet nine months ago does not come into force before July 15, the ministry would have to present an immediate program with restrictive measures according to the current legal situation. The legal plans aim to ensure that compliance with climate targets will no longer be checked retroactively by individual sectors – but rather looking into the future, viewed over several years and across sectors.

Ministry of Transport: Not a threat, but an urgent appeal

Wissing said on Deutschlandfunk that the sector consideration in the current law meant that 22 million tons of CO2 equivalents had to be saved immediately. This cannot be achieved with a speed limit or other measures, but only on an ad hoc basis by foregoing cars and trucks. The department did not provide any information about what the “widespread and unlimited driving bans on Saturdays and Sundays” raised in the ministerial letter actually look like could be enforced. The aim is to prevent this scenario by all possible means, said a spokesman. This is not a threat, but an urgent appeal to Parliament to pass the amendment quickly.

FDP parliamentary group deputy Carina Konrad said that the planned economy law that is still in force with unrealistic, rigid sector targets threatens to tie the country down. “If the Greens now oppose the amendment to the law that has already been agreed upon in the coalition committee, they will be taking hostage millions of citizens who want to visit their friends and family at the weekend, go on a trip or simply have to go to work.” FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai told the “t-online” portal: “The Greens must finally give up their blockade on reforming the climate protection law.”

Criticism from the Greens and SPD

Green party leader Katharina Dröge said: “It is not responsible for a minister to stir up unfounded fears.” Instead, Wissing should carry out his task and finally make sensible suggestions for more climate protection in the transport sector. “There are enough measures.” Criticism of Wissing’s initiative also came from the SPD. Group deputy Detlef Müller said: “Scaremongering through absurd proposals does not help climate protection in the transport sector at all, on the contrary.” The SPD parliamentary group rejects driving bans for cars and trucks. Such maneuvers would hardly advance the ongoing discussions in the Bundestag about the law.

Deputy government spokesman Wolfgang Büchner pointed out the joint decision of all coalition partners in the cabinet. The draft is now going through the parliamentary process and it is expected and hoped that this will now be implemented in a timely manner. The cabinet approved the draft in June and the first reading in the Bundestag was in September.

Environmental groups are outraged

Environmental associations warn that the plans would weaken sector goals and the responsibility of ministries such as the transport department. Greenpeace mobility expert Clara Thompson criticized: “Wissing has wasted two years blocking every climate protection measure in road traffic – now he is painting horror scenarios on the wall so that he doesn’t have to do anything in the future.” The Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) called Wissing’s actions shabby. “It fits into the picture that the minister, of all people, who blocks every measure, no matter how easy to implement, such as a speed limit on motorways, is now playing on people’s fears,” said transport expert Jens Hilgenberg to the dpa.

The German climate goals are bindingly regulated in the Climate Protection Act. It envisages that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990. Permissible annual quantities have been set for individual sectors such as industry, energy, transport and buildings. The following applies so far: If sectors fail to meet the targets, the responsible ministries have to follow up with emergency programs to ensure compliance with emission levels. In the future, the government as a whole should decide in which sector and with which measures the total permitted amount of CO2 should be achieved by 2030 – but only if the target is missed for two years in a row.


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