The move will help reduce Germany’s dependence on oil imports, regional environment ministers say.
Germany should introduce a speed limit on motorways, regional environment ministers decided in an apparently unanimous vote at a conference on Friday. The move is justified by the need to save energy and reduce Germany’s dependence on oil and gas imports amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, they argued.
The Autobahn speed limit would be “an economical measure, of rapid implementation and of immediate effect” to reduce Germany’s fuel consumption and the need to import oil from abroad, said the joint statement adopted by the ministers. The move would also help reduce the effects of greenhouse gases, air pollution and noise, he added.
“From my point of view, unlimited races don’t fit with the times anymore,” said Lower Saxony Environment Minister Olaf Lies, who chaired the conference. “We must also promote climate protection through a speed limit,” he added.
Thuringian Environment Minister Anja Siegesmund (Greens) praised the idea as a “quick and effective measure to save many millions of liters of fuel and tons of CO2 per year.”
However, ministers from the German states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia had been reluctant to support the move, according to German media. Both had said that they considered that the measure would only have a “limited” effect, and intended to oppose “for reasons of proportionality”.
However, the joint resolution, which also contained other proposals on environmental policy, was approved unanimously, according to Lies. The speed limit has so far been proposed for a “limited period” that would continue as long as the conflict in Ukraine continues.
The joint statement has not set any fixed speed limits, although Lies said he would favor a maximum of 130 km/h. The conference of ministers does not have the authority to introduce the measure, which can only be applied by the federal government. The government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not included it in its political program due to resistance from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), a member of the government coalition led by the Social Democrats. Berlin has so far not commented on the ministerial proposal.
Germany is one of the few nations that does not have a fixed speed limit on the roads. In Russia, it has a limit of 110 km/h; in Spain, Portugal and Belgium the maximum speed on motorways is 120 km/h. In the US, speed limits vary between 105 and 140 km/h depending on the state.
According to a recent survey conducted by the German Forsa Institute on behalf of the RTL and n-tv media, 57% of German drivers support the introduction of a speed limit on motorways. The measure is opposed by 39%. The survey also showed that 85% of speed limit supporters believe it is necessary for road safety reasons. Only slightly more than half of those who support the limit mentioned the conflict in Ukraine as a main reason, according to the survey.
The news comes as Berlin scrambles to cut its oil and gas imports from Russia in line with the EU’s push to disconnect from Russian energy supplies. Before the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, 35% of Germany’s oil imports came from Russia. Since the conflict broke out, Germany has reduced its share of oil imports from Russia from 35% to 12%.
In early May, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck warned that eastern Germany could face gasoline shortages if the EU goes ahead with plans to impose an embargo on Russian oil.
The eastern part of Germany is supplied by the Schwedt refinery, which runs entirely on Russian imports. It is one of the largest crude oil processing facilities in Germany, providing 90% of the gasoline, diesel and fuel oil used in Berlin and the state of Brandenburg.
On Friday, multiple media outlets reported that a sixth round of sanctions against Russia still being debated by EU member states is unlikely to include an oil embargo due to resistance from Hungary.
Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, after Ukraine failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Since then, the Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.
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