The centre-left SPD says reducing the price of public transport will help Germany meet its climate targets and make it more affordable for people to get around.
“We want everyone to be able to travel by bus and train at affordable prices, whether in the big city or in the countryside,” the party said in a 30-page proposal on climate protection presented by the parliamentary group in the Bundestag.
Local authorities should therefore be supported “in the gradual introduction of a €365 annual ticket,” said the report, which was seen by the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
As The Local reported in July, Michael Müller, the SPD mayor of Berlin, wants to introduce the ticket in the capital.
Müller said he was “inspired” by Vienna's public transport ticket system which successfully introduced a €365 annual travel card in 2012.
Some German cities now offer this ticket, but it’s mostly only for school pupils and trainees. The SPD, however, wants everyone to benefit from it.
“Mobility is a fundamental right of every individual,” said SPD deputy faction leader Sören Bartol.
The SPD plans to vote on the paper internally on Friday.
On September 20th, the government intends to pass resolutions on how its climate targets for 2030 can be achieved. With this paper, the SPD parliamentary group is in a good position for the upcoming negotiations with its coalition partner, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU).
Overall, public transport is highly popular in Germany, with the number of journeys increasing regularly over the past 20 years, reaching 10.3 billion in 2017.
But critics have warned that it were free or the price heavily reduced, more investment and planning would be needed to accommodate the extra passengers on trips that are already crowded in busy hubs.
The SPD believes costs can be offset by the introduction of a carbon tax which would result in a so-called climate bonus being paid out to people who consume less CO2.
Proposals unveiled earlier this year by Environment Minister Svenja Schulze were for an initial €35 tax on each metric ton of CO2, to be increased to €180 by 2030. However, the draft was rejected by the CDU.
How can Germany bring down air pollution?
Germany aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 40 percent by 2020, by 55 percent by 2030 and up to 95 percent in 2050, compared to 1990 levels. The share of renewables in gross final energy consumption is to rise to 60 percent by 2050.
Air quality has surged to the top of the agenda in recent years due to pressure from climate change activists and Volkswagen's devastating emissions cheating “dieselgate” scandal in 2015, which unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a huge part of German industry.
Meanwhile, environmentalists have brought court cases aimed at banning diesel in city centres, creating polarization on the topic across Germany.
Cities such as Tübingen in Baden-Württemberg offer initiatives like free bus travel on certain days of the week in a bid to get people to leave their cars at home. Monheim in western Germany will also offer free public transport from April 2020.
Yet, according to the Federal Environment Agency, car traffic increased by 18 percent between 1995 and 2017, resulting in more pollutants being emitted than ever before despite cleaner car engines.