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Speed Limits

DW staff (th)December 29, 2006

Some German politicians want to slow traffic on the country's famously speedy Autobahns and limit speeds to 120 kilometers per hour to help cut polluting CO2 emissions.

Some Germans propose putting the brakes on polluting speed demonsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

With climate change set to top the agenda when Germany takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency on Jan 1, a radical proposal to cut harmful carbon dioxide emissions has stirred much debate.

The German Federal Environment Agency this week suggested setting a speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour on the country's Autobahn system. Andreas Troge, president of the agency, said that could reduce the production of climate-damaging exhaust emissions by up to 30 percent.

Limited support

Symbolbild Autobahn, Bildergalerie 100 Gründe für Deutschland
Slowing traffic could help the environmentImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The speed limit proposal seems to have support from politicians in both parties of the ruling coalition government, a German newspaper reported.

"I would argue that a speed limit makes sense on the basis of climate protection," the Social Democratic Party's transport politician Heidi Wright told the Berliner Zeitung.

The European Union recently dismissed Germany's plan for cutting CO2 emissions as extremely inadequate. That has left the government in the position of proposing a more ambitious plan that will also keep utility companies happy.

German utilities have warned that a more ambitious plan would risk jobs and the current economic upswing. But not everyone is convinced slowing down drivers is the best way for Germany to cut emissions.

Stop speeding on the Autobahn? No Way

And politically, it won't be easy for the government to curb Germany's speed demons. Driving fast on the autobahn is considered a sacred right by many.

German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, as well as the major automobile clubs, have spoken out against a general speed limit. Tiefensee pointed out that 40 percent of the autobahn already has speed limits. He feels its better to push for innovations in fuels and engines.

Peter Meyer, head of the powerful German automobile association ADAC called the speed limit idea a foolish, outdated proposal in the tabloid Bild Zeitung.