Germany bets on cheap tickets to help transport sector meet CO2 targets

rcomFILE PHOTO: Special nine euro ticket from Deutsche Bahn in Cologne

By Riham Alkousaa

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany is to introduce a discounted ticket for public transport next year to encourage people to cut down on car driving and help the country to achieve its emissions targets.

Berlin aims to become climate-neutral by 2045 and cut 65% of emissions by 2030 compared with 1990. The country has managed an overall cut so far of around 40%, but the transport sector has lagged behind, with 2021 emissions only 9.4% less than in 1990.

Germany's emissions cutting efforts will be under scrutiny at the COP27 global climate talks in Egypt starting at the weekend.

The new "Deutschlandticket", unveiled this week, costs 49 euros ($47.76) a month and covers unlimited travel in Germany on local public transport, such as buses and commuter trains.

It is also part of measures Berlin is introducing to help with rising living costs.

A more heavily discounted 9-euro per month nationwide ticket that was valid just for the past summer is estimated by Germany's transport companies association to have prevented some 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, but only replaced about 10% of car journeys.

Germany's transport ministry has had to come up with an emergency programme to cut emissions after failing to meet its target last year.

The transport ministry has said reforming the transport sector is more challenging than in other areas of the economy because it affects people's everyday lives which cannot be changed quickly.

"We must make progress in all areas of climate protection but mobility is a fundamental right," a transport ministry spokesperson said.

In Germany, famous for its carmakers, vehicles have become more efficient, but the transport sector has not made much progress in cutting emissions because there are more trucks on the road now than two decades ago.

For instance, freight transport road emissions are 17% higher currently than in 1995, data from Germany's Federal Environment Agency showed.

Environmental groups say Germany must impose a nationwide speed limit on motorways, abolish tax incentives for company cars and stop production of combustion engine cars as early as 2025.

"A reform of the road traffic law is needed, in which cars are still massively preferred at the moment," Greenpeace transport expert Marissa Reiserer told Reuters.

Data from the Federal Environment Agency published last year showed that a speed limit of 120 kilometres per hour on motorways in Germany, where there are no speed restrictions, could cut total CO2 emission from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles by around 2.6 million tonnes annually.

Germany's ruling coalition has failed to agree on such a speed limit due to opposition from the liberal FDP party.

"Of course, the speed limit is not the only salvation but is a measure that can easily be enforced overnight then the sector can devote itself to the big questions," Reiserer said.

($1 = 1.0260 euros)

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa and Markus Wacket, editing by Rachel More and Jane Merriman)