Germany’s climate plan: More bike lanes, no car speed limit

BERLIN (AP) — The German government unveiled a new package of climate measures Wednesday to close the emissions gap in the transport and housing sectors as part of the country’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2045.

Transport Minister Volker Wissing said his department planned to boost the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, expand public transport and build more bicycle lanes in the hopes that people will leave their gasoline-powered cars at home.

But Wissing, a member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party, said Germany would not be introducing a general highway speed limit that environmental activists have said would immediately cut emissions and lower the sky-high cost of fuel by reducing demand.

“As transport minister I need to weigh up the goal of protecting the climate as quickly as possible on the one hand, and other other hand keep in mind the mobility needs and acceptance (of measures) in society,” said Wissing.

Together with existing measures, the goal of limiting transport sector emissions to 85 million metric tons of CO2 — from 148 million tons last year — could be achieved, he said.

Greenpeace called the plans “nebulous” and said a general speed limit would achieve concrete emissions cuts. It also criticized that new gas furnaces can continue to be installed until 2024, arguing that the measure should be in effect immediately so that homeowners switch to less polluting heat pumps.

Currently, many stretches of the Autobahn have no speed limit and it is not uncommon for drivers to push their cars to go faster than 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph), greatly increasing fuel use.

Limiting speeds on German highways to 100 kph (62 mph), 80 kph (50 mph) on country roads and 30 kph (19 mph) in town would save up to 9.2 million tons of CO2 a year, the environmental group DUH said.

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