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How will the new German government approach transport?

Authors: Sebastian Ibold and Daniel Bongardt

On December 8, 2021, a new German federal government was inaugurated. The new coalition of three parties consists of the Social Democrats, the Liberals and the Greens. This constellation is in place for the first time in German history. 

The partners have developed a 177-page coalition agreement to define a programme for government work until 2025. The agreement is focusing on the green and zero carbon transformation of the German economy. 

Transport is an important element of the coalition agreement. Different from other sectors, transport carbon emissions in Germany have – besides a pandemic-induced dip in 2020 – not been reduced in the last 30 years in absolute terms. At the same time, the German climate law sets a very ambitious goal of cutting emissions by almost 50% to 85 Mt CO2 in 2030 (162 Mt CO2 in 2019). This figure of the German Federal Environmental Agency visualises these transport GHG emissions and targets.

Transport greenhouse gas emissions in Germany 1990-2020 and sectoral climate target for 2030, own translation;
Source: the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA) & German Federal Government

The coalition agreement outlines the transport roadmap

The agreement outlines the overall goal to use the 2020s for a departure in mobility policy and to enable sustainable, efficient, barrier-free, intelligent, innovative and affordable mobility. The seven pages-long section of the coalition agreement on transport lists more general targets that are envisaged. For instance, it is highlighted that step by step the fossil age shall be ended, but a phase-out date for the internal combustion engine is not included. Instead, the agreement refers to the plans of the EU Commission, according to which only CO₂-neutral vehicles will be allowed to be registered in Europe from 2035. For the time after 2035, the agreement states that only vehicles that can be fuelled with e-fuels can be newly registered. A general speed limit for Germany’s Autobahn is not included. 

The agreement lists remarkable targets for various modes and areas. A complete list of targets by category can be found in this PDF. Below are selections:

  • Invest significantly more in rail than in roads and increase rail freight transport share to 25% by 2030 and double passenger transport performance.
  • Electrify 75 per cent of the rail network by 2030 and support innovative propulsion technologies
  • Significantly increase public transport passenger numbers
  • Further develop the mobility data space and oblige transport companies and mobility providers to make their real-time data available under fair conditions
  • Support digital mobility services, innovative mobility solutions and car sharing and include them in a long-term strategy for autonomous and connected public transport
  • Strengthen intermodal links and promote barrier-free mobility stations
  • Structurally support pedestrian traffic and underpin it with a national strategy
  • The goal is 15 million fully electric passenger cars by 2030
  • Make Germany the leading market for electromobility, the innovation centre for autonomous driving
  • Accelerate the expansion of the charging infrastructure ahead of time with the goal of one million publicly and non-discriminatorily accessible charging points by 2030
  • Enable bidirectional charging and strengthen research on new sustainable battery generations
  • Become a pioneer in CO2-neutral flying

The list includes important topics and opportunities for rail, public transport, active modes, e-mobility and digitalisation. 

Transport is a hard to abate sector, which is true for Germany but for developing and emerging countries, too. This makes global cooperation more necessary than ever before. International partnerships help to drive the needed change.