Future mobility – how will we get around and how important will the various modes of transport be? These are important questions for the parties in the forthcoming election. We present the different positions.
Germany’s traffic is damaging the climate. It causes 20 per cent of national emissions. Road traffic accounts for 95 per cent of this, with the automotive sector having a particularly negative impact on the environment and atmosphere. Despite stricter exhaust regulations and a steady improvement in energy efficiency, total carbon dioxide emissions increased by 5.1 per cent between 1995 and 2019. The reason for this is a rise in the level of car usage and travel in Germany. Around 77 per cent of all German households now have at least one car and a quarter of households have two or more. Cars account for almost 80 per cent of Germany’s traffic. In comparison, public transport – such as buses and trains – plays a lesser role, accounting for a total of 15 per cent.
Escalating car usage not only means more greenhouse gases. It also has a negative impact on nature and the countryside, as well as on road safety, health and people’s quality of life.
Germany’s current transport policy does not meet these challenges. It is too closely linked to motorised private transport and has so far focused on technical optimisation – in other words, on electrifying road traffic and providing alternative fuels. There is no doubt that these tools represent an important building block for decarbonising the transport sector. However, an environmentally friendly mobility policy should go further and address these systemic challenges. Important targets are the avoidance and transfer of traffic – i.e. overcoming our dependence on the car – promoting the development of renewable energies and electricity networks, investing more in digitalisation, sustainable resource management and material recycling and abolishing privileges for high-carbon road traffic. The latter applies to both drivetrain technologies, fuels and infrastructures, as well as to the industry’s established stakeholders.
If the parties currently standing for election are serious about mobility transformation, they will have to focus on and be measured against these criteria. The following analysis of the individual election manifestos provides some preliminary evidence. It is arranged in alphabetical order.
Alternative for Germany (AfD)
Contrary to the concept of environmentally friendly mobility transformation, the AfD explicitly advocates protecting motorised private transport. This involves providing additional transport infrastructure, as well as rejecting diesel bans and so-called environmental lanes. The automotive sector will remain a key industry, under conditions with an open attitude to technology. In this context, the AfD is critical of what it considers to be a one-sided preference for electromobility and the CO2 fleet limits for the automotive industry that have been established at EU level. Synthetic fuels are being considered as possible alternatives, but only in the event that EU emission reduction legislations cannot be prevented. The only low-emission mode of transport that the AfD supports is rail passenger traffic. The rail network will be expanded, the planned synchronised German timetable implemented and high-speed services extended.
ALLIANCE 90/THE GREENS
The Greens’ election manifesto contradicts the AfD’s election promises. In the opening lines of their mobility chapter, they instantly reject a one-sided preference for the car. They are committed to a fair balance between modes of transport and would therefore like to focus on expanding rail, public transport, cycle routes and footpaths, while reducing car traffic and making this emission-free. By 2030, it should be possible for everyone in Germany to make half of their journeys without driving a car. If possible, the other 50 per cent should be made with an electrically-powered vehicle and by using car-sharing or car-pooling services. The Greens are therefore focusing on increasing the share of electric cars to at least 15 million vehicles by 2030, continuing to expand the charging infrastructure and accelerating the development of new mobility services. This will require the development of renewable energies. They are planning to introduce a so-called ‘Mobilpass’ to better connect all the mobility alternatives. They are also in favour of a national mobility law to create a uniform legal framework. A number of regulatory restrictions for motorised private transport are also proposed: the abolition of diesel subsidies, the introduction of speed limits, the early increase in the CO2 price to EUR 60 in 2023, a halt to roadbuilding projects that harm the environment, a city toll or local traffic tax and the creation of additional privileges for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as more room for green spaces and traffic-calming zones.
The Christian Democrat Union’s election manifesto attempts to bridge the gap between old and new. On the one hand, the car continues to be the focus of mobility transformation for the CDU/CSU, including all types of drivetrain. They therefore reject a diesel ban and a general speed limit, but aim to do more to modernise the automotive industry, especially with the help of electromobility and synthetic fuels. On the other hand, they advocate greater choice of transport services and emphasise the importance of networking and digitalising mobility types for a sustainable mobility system. The CDU therefore intends to improve public transport and rail passenger services, to extend cycle routes and footpaths, to supplement public transport with pooling services and request stops and to enable closer integration with motorised private transport by developing so-called mobility stations. Other tools include establishing real-world laboratories for future mobility and funding start-ups and research institutions.
Public mobility services are at the centre of The Left’s election campaign. They are primarily concerned with issues of affordability and accessibility. They therefore not only promote the funding of buses and trains, but also a gradual reduction in fares and improved connections to rural areas. The overarching aim is to introduce a publicly funded zero fare on public transport and a mobility guarantee for rural areas. According to The Left, this is best achieved via municipal, democratically controlled local transport companies. They are critical of the services of private providers, such as Uber and co. They are also highly critical of the major automotive groups, because these are staying with private transport and relying solely on changing the drivetrain. Therefore, The Left advocates a ban on new registrations and exports of vehicles fitted with a combustion engine from 2030, as well as an advertising ban for CO2-emitting cars.
The FDP’s manifesto focuses on innovation instead of bans, including for the mobility sector. The Liberals therefore reject speed limits, diesel and motorbike bans, as well as a blanket ban on combustion engines. The same applies to the recently established national emissions trading scheme. Their counter-proposal is to extend the European CO2 emissions trading scheme to the entire transport sector, which would guarantee a cap on total climate gas emissions. According to the Liberals, relying on smart, innovative traffic control offers greater potential for achieving environmentally friendly traffic flows. They also want to promote so-called springboard innovations – such as driverless cars, the high-speed Hyperloop system, drones and flying taxis – by developing the legal framework for these and simplifying the approval and test procedures for new ideas.
The Social Democrats’ mission is to create climate-neutral mobility for everyone. This is backed by a mix of measures that both stimulate electromobility, large-scale battery production in Germany and low-emission alternative fuels, as well as improve public transport and rail services, with the latter being the focus of their transport policy agenda. According to its election manifesto, the SPD is committed to electrifying 75 per cent of the rail network by 2030 and supporting the use of hydrogen-powered trains. A 2030 Mobility Plan is intended to provide the guidelines for implementing this strategy. The first specific proposals are a state-funded fleet exchange programme, additional funding for pilot projects to test ticketless local transport and changes to road traffic law that make it easier for towns and cities to create more space for public transport, pedestrians and cyclists.
The German Advisory Council on the Environment, SRU (2005): Environment and Road Transport. High Mobility – Environmentally Sound Traffic. Online access (27.8.2021): https://www.umweltrat.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/02_Sondergutachten/2004_2008//2005_SG_Umwelt_und_Strassenverkehr.pdf?__blob=publicationFile
Federal Statistical Office (2021): Road Transport: EU-wide carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 24% since 1990. Online access (27.8.2021): https://www.destatis.de/Europa/DE/Thema/Umwelt-Energie/CO2_Strassenverkehr.html#:~:text=Pkw%20verursachen%20den%20gr%C3%B6%C3%9Ften%20Anteil%20Rund%20888%20Millionen,26%20%25%2C%20weitere%2013%20%25%20auf%20leichte%20Nutzfahrzeuge.
The German Environment Agency (2021): Traffic Emissions Online access (27.8.2021): https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/daten/verkehr/emissionen-des-verkehrs#-das-mehr-an-pkw-verkehr-hebt-den-fortschritt-auf
The German Environment Agency (2021): Mobility of Private Households. Online access (27.8.2021): https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/daten/private-haushalte-konsum/mobilitaet-privater-haushalte#-hoher-motorisierungsgrad
The German Environment Agency (2019): Mobility. Health. Environment. Online access (27.8.2021): https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/publikationen/mobilitaet-gesundheit-umwelt