Traffic: “LNG speed” for highways? Solution sought in the street dispute

It’s about the nitty gritty. The transport sector is a problem child when it comes to climate protection. Fundamentally different positions collide in the coalition committee. It could be a long evening.

The heads of the traffic light coalition want to try to solve a long dispute on Thursday. It’s about speeding up the planning process Traffic and essentially the question: should motorways also be built faster? Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) wants that. The Greens reject that, for them it’s a tricky question. Environmental groups are up in arms and warn that environmental protection is being undermined.

It’s all about this: white wants the future construction and renovation of motorways, for which an urgent need has been identified, to be in the “overriding public interest”. This is intended to speed up the approval process and facilitate court proceedings.

An outstanding public interest already applies to the construction of wind turbines and solar systems. And in the political Berlin there is often talk of more “LNG speed” these days: New terminals for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the north were built in less than a year, the reason was also the waiver of an environmental impact assessment.

Auto industry is under pressure

Wissing wants to take up essential elements of the LNG Acceleration Act, as stated in the draft. An efficient transport infrastructure is of fundamental importance for economic strength and the associated growth and prosperity. According to the ministry, road traffic will increase according to forecasts and traffic jams should be reduced. The minister is primarily concerned with bottlenecks in the network.

“The coalition must turn the lever on the infrastructure projects,” said FDPGroup leader Christian Dürr. “That applies to renewable energies, to the expansion of rail, but also to motorways.” Group Vice President Carina Konrad said that the crumbling infrastructure is leading to increasing restrictions on the mobility of citizens and to a weakening of Germany as a business location.

The automotive industry is also putting pressure on. “In order to remain an attractive investment, innovation and production location, an excellent analogue and digital infrastructure is a basic requirement,” emphasized the President of the VDA industry association, Hildegard Müller. She called for “maximum accelerated planning and approval procedures”.

Greens insist on compliance with climate targets

Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) has nothing against a necessary renovation, especially of bridges. However, the preservation of biotopes and ecosystems should not take second place to road construction. However, Lemke points out that the cabinet decided in June that measures to accelerate central projects should focus on projects that serve climate protection: “The construction and expansion of motorways, roads or waterways does not belong in this category. New motorways do not serve the achievement of the climate goals, the opposite is the case.”

Green leader Ricarda Lang complained that there was a huge gap in the transport sector when it came to achieving the climate goals. “Instead of speculating about further climate-damaging measures, such as accelerating the construction of new motorways, we urgently need a plan for how traffic can achieve its climate targets,” Lang demanded in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” in the direction of Wissing. The Greens transport politician Stefan Gelbhaar said that the coalition agreement provides for privileges in environmental and nature conservation law for the electrification of rail or the construction of wind turbines. “Such a privilege is neither sensible nor agreed for projects that are harmful to the climate and the environment, such as motorways.”

And the chancellor? Olaf Scholz (SPD) has so far held back publicly in the dispute. In a survey in the Bundestag on Wednesday, he said that in general, for example when it comes to transport services, there should be further acceleration. “We’re working hard to come to a joint result.”

“Major attack on climate protection”

The industry calls for more speed. With regard to the LNG terminals, the general manager of the Federation of German Industries, Tanja Gönner, said that the “Germany Tempo” propagated by the Chancellor must also be used for industrial plants as well as the transport and digital infrastructure. Union faction deputy Ulrich Lange wrote in a letter to Lemke that he was observing the “blockade” of important projects with great concern. Roads with sufficient capacity and in good condition are also needed.

Environmental organizations warn against it. The President of the Nabu Nature Conservation Union, Jörg-Andreas Krüger, said: “There must be no carte blanche for building new motorways more quickly.” Nabu expects the Greens to focus on climate protection and biodiversity. “Anything else would be a massive disappointment and a readjustment of the Greens’ policy.”

In the transport sector there is a disastrous CO2 balance. So far, Wissing has not presented any effective measures. “We think that prioritizing the new motorway construction is fundamentally wrong.” The managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, said: “More space for people and goods on the rails is in the overriding public interest – and not new motorways.” BUND Managing Director Antje von Broock said: “The FDP is launching another major attack on climate protection with the absurd proposal to accelerate the construction and expansion of motorways and to declare it to be of outstanding public interest.”

When it comes to climate protection, traffic lights have been looking in vain for months for a solution on how to get the immediate climate protection program announced in the coalition agreement off the ground. The main sticking point is the traffic area. Among other things, the Greens want the reduction of environmentally harmful subsidies and a speed limit on motorways – but this bites the FDP on granite. Lemke’s plans for biofuel are also controversial: by 2030 she wants to phase out biofuels obtained from plants for food and animal feed.

In the run-up to the coalition committee, there was talk behind the scenes of an overall package. A possible line of compromise for faster planning procedures for motorways is that the coalition could agree on a few selected, urgent projects. It also seems clear that there is significantly more money for the renovation of the ailing railway network.


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