Marshalling Yard in Germany. Source: mirokola/Pixabay

Increase of transport emissions in Germany alarming for climate targets

Marshalling Yard in Germany. Source: mirokola/Pixabay

The German transport sector failed to meet its emission targets for 2021, emitting greenhouse gases 1,2 per cent more than 2020. “An alarming trend for climate targets”, says German non-profit rail transport association Allianz pro Schiene, “which can only be reversed by shifting to rail and reducing environmentally harmful subsidies”.

The figures for 2021 concerning the emissions of the German transport sector come from Germany’s Federal Environment Agency. The numbers show that 2021 greenhouse emissions in Germany reached 145 million tonnes, exceeding the set goals for the year by 3 million tonnes. In addition, the value was 1,2 per cent higher than in 2020. The agency underlined that “one reason for this was the renewed growth in road traffic, where truck traffic on the motorways rose again to a level slightly above that of 2019”.

“The figures show that the transport sector has recorded the least progress in CO2 reductions of all sectors since 1990”, said Allianz pro Schiene’s executive director, Dirk Flege. He also stressed that policy should focus on environmentally friendly transport modes; otherwise, the consequences could be disastrous.

More rail-less harmful subsidies

Flege did not miss the opportunity to emphasise how crucial it is at this point for more transport volumes-both passenger and freight-to turn to rail. “We need to shift more traffic to environmentally friendly rail as soon as possible […] Climate protection, energy policy dependency and rising energy prices require the determined expansion of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly forms of transport so that we have any chance at all of achieving the 2030 climate target”, he said.

On top of that, he highlighted that subsidising environmentally harmful transport practices will lead the sector to a dead end. By harmful subsidies, he meant the lower mineral oil tax on diesel, the company car privilege and the non-taxation of paraffin, which together with others account for approximately 30 billion euros per year, costing money and harming the environment.

Fuel rebate irrelevant

Under these circumstances, discussing the reduction of fuel taxes is entirely irrelevant, said Flege. Allianz pro Schiene addressed the German government before, asking it not to go ahead with a reduction in fuel tax, saying Berlin should emphasise a reduction in overall energy use instead.

“Elevated energy and petrol prices affect all citizens, even those without a car”, mentioned Flege. “People tend to forget that shifting to energy-efficient means of transport is the most effective way to keep mobility affordable”.

With that in mind, Allianz pro Schiene points to the increased cost of electricity, which it said has tripled over the past 1,5 years, compared with ‘only’ an 80 per cent uptick in the price of diesel fuel. As such, the government should consider scrapping its tax on traction power. According to Flege, the German tax is the highest in Europe at 1,14 euro cents per kilowatt-hour. “The federal government must finally act so that more people and goods can be shifted to rail”.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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