1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany urged to go green with speed limits

December 5, 2019

Germany's environment agency has called for the government to bring in a raft of measures to limit carbon emissions from road traffic. Among the proposals are speed restrictions on Germany's autobahns.

A truck passes a 120 km/h (75 mph) speed limit sign
Image: Reuters/M. Mac Matzen

Germany's Federal Environment Agency has urged the government to introduce speed restrictions on the country's famously limit-free highways.

The idea is included in a package of measures put forward to reduce carbon emissions from private vehicles on German roads.

Read more: Everything you need to know about the German autobahn

Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday cited an internal document from the agency that urges drastic action to meet the country's climate targets.

Among the proposals is the introduction of a maximum speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour (75 miles per hour) for vehicles on all German highways.

Such restrictions would likely spark huge controversy. At present, there are no official speed limits on certain stretches of road and drivers regularly hurtle along at speeds of more than 200 kph.

'Ambitious but feasible'

The unpublished policy paper also envisages a steep rise in tax on diesel — currently taxed at a lower rate than ordinary gasoline — of €0.70 ($0.78) per liter by the year 2030. Such a rise would represent an increase of almost 60%. Petrol would rise by €0.47. 

Proposals also include a sharp increase in road tolls for heavy goods trucks, and an abolition of the country's "commuting allowance," which allows people traveling longer distances to work by car to claim tax rebates. 

Germany: Diesel ban approved

Germany could face EU penalties if it fails to reduce greenhouse gas and poisonous nitrogen oxides emissions. Observers consider the transport sector as a key to meeting emissions reduction targets.

Read more: German car lovers want to challenge Fridays for Future

The country aims — by the year 2030 — to reduce its carbon emissions to 55% of the level they were in 1990.

According to the document seen by the newspaper, those goals were "ambitious but feasible."

Autobahn of the future, CO2 free

No desire for limits

In November, the Netherlands cut the daytime speed limit for traffic in the daytime to 100 kph, in an effort to tackle an emissions pollution crisis and improve air quality.

The German government has already said it has no plans to introduce a speed limit on Germany's autobahn network. That came after a government-appointed commission on the future of mobility suggested an upper speed limit of 130 kph.

And in October, German lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against a Greens proposal to impose speed limits.

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.