A new study has found that Germany could save almost three times more carbon dioxide emissions than previously thought by introducing a speed limit on its highways, increasing pressure on Berlin to reconsider the politically sensitive issue.
Data from the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) published on Thursday show a speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour on motorways in Germany, where there are currently no speed restrictions, could cut total CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles by about 6.7 million metric tons a year.
In an earlier study, with a different methodology, the agency expected such limits to result in 2.6 million CO2 cuts.
The transport ministry said the study also shows that a general speed limit would lead to a shift in traffic from the motorways to secondary roads, leading to more traffic jams and more accidents in cities and on rural roads with more noise and environmental pollutants for their residents.
“Traffic flow and road safety are proven to be greatest on motorways,” a spokesperson for the ministry told Reuters, adding that the government had agreed on effective measures to achieve its climate goals, where a general speed limit was not included.
As Germany aims to become carbon neutral by 2045, the new results add to mounting pressure on the transport ministry, led by the liberal FDP party, to ramp up its CO2 cutting program for the sector that has been the slowest to cut emissions.
To meet its 2022 greenhouse reduction target, the sector’s emissions should have not exceeded 138.7 million metric tons of CO2-equivalents. UBA will announce in March whether the sector met that target but cautioned in November that there were no indications it had managed to do so.
In 2021, transport in Germany emitted about 148 million metric tons of CO2, missing its target by around 3 million metric tons.
The transport ministry says its program will cut some 13 million metric tons in the coming years, compensating for the 2021 missed target.
But environmentalists say the program does not go far enough, urging the government to introduce speed limits on its motorways.
Germany’s ruling coalition has failed to agree on a speed limt because of opposition from the FDP.