Themes: Environment
30. September 2015

“Transport remains the biggest climate worry”

Pro-Rail Alliance and others criticize stagnation on CO2

Why is the traffic moving so slowly? The organizers of a conference have been asking themselves that for some time: (left to right) Dirk Flege (Pro-Rail Alliance), Carel Mohn (Klimafakten), Matthias Knobloch (ACE).

Berlin, September 30, 2015. Climate protection has become a global hot topic: US president Obama and the pope have made it a priority, the automotive industry is in a serious crisis over the issue and the international conference on climate change is getting closer. Just why transport, which according to the latest IPCC climate report is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, has not made any visible progress over the last decades was a subject for debate at a conference organized by the German Pro-Rail Alliance, the Autoclub Europa (ACE) and the climate alliance Klimafakten. “Globally, CO2 emissions from the transport sector could even double again by 2050, but German emission levels do not look good either,” said the managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance on Wednesday in Berlin at the conference, which was titled ‘Just How Immobile is the Transport Sector?’ “All sectors of the economy – industry, private households, energy generators – have been able to cut their climate damaging emissions since 1990. Only the German transport sector has not made any progress. Its role as the biggest climate worry has been firmly set in asphalt for the last 25 years.” 

Greenhouse gas emissions in Germany

150413-treibhausgas-emissionen-sektoren-1990-2014
Source:Allianz pro Schiene auf Basis von Umweltbundesamt 17.03.2015. Werte für 2014 = Prognose. 1 Ziel der Bundesregierung: Gesamte CO2-Emissionen bis zum Jahr 2020 um 40 Prozent unter das Niveau von 1990 senken.
Greenhouse gas emissions in Germany – development from 1990 to 2014 in %, 1990 = 100%. Source: Pro-Rail Alliance based on data from the German environment agency 17.3.2015. Figures for 2014 = forecast. German government target: to reduce overall CO2 emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

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“In spite of depressing emissions levels there is also some good news,” said Oliver Lah, lead author on the climate section of the IPCC report. “We have now managed to explode the myth of the ‘difficult transport sector’. The issue of climate change now plays a central role in major cities such as Copenhagen, Zürich or Freiburg. They are cites that function as role models and take an approach that covers all levels of everyday transport. Even if there is not just one single switch that can simply be flicked, the target of a two degree limit can still be achieved.” The railways and public transport will have a central role to play: just shifting transportation onto more climate friendly modes, for example regional public transport, has the potential for cutting climate gas emissions by up to 30 percent, said the scientist from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate Protection.

Video: Conference ‘Reality Check Climate Policy – Just How Immobile is the Transport Sector” (German 2:34 min)

It is fact that freight can also be shifted onto the railways, which are cost efficient and environmentally friendly, said Klaus Engelmann, who works for Henkel. Since 2009 he has been responsible for shifting increasing volumes of freight onto freight trains. “It began when Henkel defined sustainability as one of the company’s targets, reducing the size of our eco footprint between 2011 and 2015.” Engelmann developed an rail freight concept for the Henkel’s range of personal hygiene products. “We can be proud of our record. Since we started transporting our hair care products, for example Schauma, via a newly constructed rail line operated by Bayernbahn, we have reduced the number of HGV journeys by 6,500 a year,” calculated the logistics expert. His conclusion after five years: “Rail transport works. Although it is of course always simpler for businesses to order a truck, Henkel is developing additional projects for shifting transport onto the railways. From a political point of view, the transport sector is developing too slowly. Anton Hofreiter, leader of the Greens in the federal parliament, expressed the hope that the current emissions crisis will be seen as a wake-up call and not paralyze the automotive industry, “We need a zero-emissions car. But that will of course not solve all our problems. Land required for transport infrastructure can only be used once and this is where cars and HGVs have a problem: they are too big.” In order to begin transforming transport, Germany needs an integrated timetable similar to the Swiss model, and modern city planning that reduces the need for making longer journeys,” said Hofreiter. “We need more commitment from transport politicians who do not just want to be dependent on car industry. Then we will have the best of both worlds: more mobility and less traffic.