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CLIMATE

Germany considers Autobahn speed limit to fight climate change

Proposed speed limit enforcements on the Autobahn are “against all common sense,” Minister of Transportation Andrews Scheuer said in Munich Saturday.

Germany considers Autobahn speed limit to fight climate change
Road worked attach a 130 speed limit sign along a stretch of the Autobahn in Baden-Württemberg in March 2018. Photo: DPA

Scheuer was responding to a draft proposal that Germany is considering enforcing speed limits on its world famous Autobahn to combat climate and carbon emissions concerns, according to DPA.

A draft proposal from the National Platform on the Future of Mobility recommends, according to various media outlets who obtained a copy, a speed limit of 130km/h to more effectively reduce transportation-related environmental damage.

Enforcing speed limits is said to help curb fuel consumption and emissions, according to the European Environment Agency

The government-tasked committee reportedly also proposed a fuel tax hike, electric and hybrid vehicle quotas, and the abolition of tax breaks for diesel cars to better meet European Union emissions standards.

If Germany does not meet EU emissions standards, the government could be faced with steep fines. Germany has not reduced transport emissions since 1990, even though overall emissions have been reduced by around 28 percent as of 2017, putting the country under a lot of pressure.

The committee on the future of transportation reportedly acknowledges its suggestions are controversial, yet there some who are in favor of them.

Jürgen Resch, CEO of German Environmental Aid, told the Rheinische Post he and his group welcome the speed limit proposal.

“The derogatory remarks made by Andreas Scheuer on the ideas of the commission clearly show that the Transport Minister has neither the traffic safety nor the climate protection in mind,” Resch also told the RP.

The various reactions to the leaked proposals further indicate that Germany is caught between its automobile industry and larger climate concerns.

A final report is not expected until March.

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

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On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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