19. July 2016

Government abandons freight modal shift targets

Sustainability: draft lacks ambition / Pro-Rail Alliance, NABU and NEE disappointed

The modal shift in freight transport has been cancelled. In the federal government’s ‘Sustainability Strategy’ revision there is suddenly no mention of market share targets for rail freight. Is this possibly because the government has missed its targets in the past?

Berlin, July 19, 2016. The Pro-Rail Alliance, the environmental group NABU and the Network of European Railways NEE have reacted with incomprehension to the federal government’s “unambitious” draft of its strategy on sustainability for 2016. In the draft ‘Sustainability Strategy’ revision, the government has quietly dropped its previous targets of shifting freight off the roads and increasing the market share of the climate friendly railways, whereas the predicted growth in the freight transport sector and the required transport policy response barely appear in the draft, criticised the three organisations on Tuesday in Berlin. For the final version, the Pro-Rail Alliance, NABU and NEE called on the government to “develop a serious strategy for more sustainability in the transport sector, instead of removing significant indicators that document its own transport policy failings”. Chancellor Angela Merkel presented the draft of the revised sustainability strategy on May 31. The public has until July 31 to make comments on the revision. The cabinet is expected to pass the new ‘German Sustainability Strategy 2016’ before the end of this year.

NABU calls for improvements to the strategy

“For policy makers, the transport sector is becoming a permanently unsolvable climate problem,” said NABU president Olaf Tschimpke. “Whereas industry, energy production and trade have all made considerable cuts to emissions, the German transport sector today emits the same level of greenhouse gases as it did in 1990, and levels are continuing to rise.” Against the background of this diagnosis “it is incomprehensible” that the draft sustainability strategy revision contains absolutely no concept for consistently shifting freight onto more environmentally friendly modes of transport. “As far as transport is concerned, the draft revision completely misses the issue,” said Tschimpke, who is also vice chairman of the council for sustainable development. “The federal government will have to come up with something more before the cabinet votes on it.”

Pro-Rail Alliance favours ambitious modal shift targets

The managing director of the German Pro-Rail Alliance, Dirk Flege, also criticised the lack of transport policy ambition found in the revised sustainability strategy, which attempts to gloss over the transport sector’s pressing problems. “Unfortunately, motorised road transport in Germany is sacred. There is no other explanation for why the government has deleted key data on modal shift without comment,” said Flege, who is arguing for realistic market share targets for rail freight to be put back into the sustainability strategy. “A share of 25 percent of total freight volume could be transported by train by 2025. Today, rail freight’s share is 17 percent. For passenger transport, the Pro-Rail Alliance reckons a modal split of 15 percent is realistic by 2025. Today it is ten percent.” In view of the remarkable modal shift successes in Switzerland and Austria, Flege called on the German government to be more ambitious. “Of course, if policy makers don’t set any targets then they won’t miss them. But the disadvantages are considerable, and with strategy papers that lack any bite we won’t achieve anything.”

NEE demands improved framework conditions

Peter Westenberger, managing director of the Network of European Railways NEE pointed out that policies for shifting freight transport from the roads to the railways have been part of a long-term agenda in Germany. In the National Sustainability Strategy 2002, a market share of 25 percent for rail freight transport by 2015 was targeted. “This target has not been achieved so far because of a lack of robust measures, particularly after the 2008/2009 economic crisis. To date, there is still no level playing field in the competition between rail freight and road transport. On top of that, infrastructure expansion is not being vigorously pursued.” Instead of giving up, the government should use modal shift as an overall transport policy concept for Germany and adjust its own activities accordingly. “Of course, shifting freight onto the railways is not an end in itself. The climate protection targets of neutral greenhouse gas emissions for the freight transport sector by 2050 cannot be achieved without rail transport. With rail freight transport, they could be achieved even earlier.”

Energy consumption indicator is not ambitious

NABU, the Pro-Rail Alliance and NEE were not satisfied with the only transport sector indicator left in the draft revision of the sustainability strategy. “Using one single indicator, total final energy consumption, as a measure for the whole domestic transport sector is far too general,” criticised the organisations. “In addition, the draft strategy sets the target far too low. A 40 percent reduction of total final energy consumption by 2050 will not get the transport sector out of its climate problem zone. If the rail sector is properly embedded in an overall policy concept it can achieve far more.”

Comments and statements on the draft can be sent until July 31: nachhaltigkeitsdialog@bpa.bund.de

Additional information (German):

The federal government’s draft Sustainability Strategy

Pro-Rail Alliance statement on the draft Sustainability Strategy 2016