Issue: April 2018, Exnovation – Actively managing change

In Focus

“We need an oil and gas consensus”

Interview with Christian Hochfeld (Agora Verkehrswende)

Transport and climate protection? These are not terms that you would necessarily mention in the same breath – for even though the transport sector will have to be almost completely decarbonised by mid-century if Germany is to achieve its climate targets, transport emissions are currently still hovering around 1990 levels. What can be done to reverse this trend? We talked to Christian Hochfeld, Director of Agora Verkehrswende and a former member of the Oeko-Institut’s Executive Board. In this interview with eco@work, he explains which opportunities he sees for a phase-out of fossil fuels in the transport sector and describes some of the changes that lie ahead for the economy, politics and society.

Mr Hochfeld, how can the transport sector finally contribute to protecting the climate?

We need a mobility turnaround and an energy turnaround for the transport sector. A mobility turnaround means making use of digitalisation to avoid unnecessary use of transport, promote a shift to green modes of transport where travel is unavoidable, and boost efficiency throughout the system without restricting mobility. Multimodal transport behaviour, especially in cities, is essential as well. In addition, an energy turnaround is required in order to avoid residual emissions. At present, we rely on fossil fuels and the relatively inefficient combustion engine to power 95 per cent of our road transport. What we need for the future is an oil and gas consensus on phasing out fossil fuels, along with a switch to electromobility based on renewables.

Multimodal mobility behaviour – what exactly does that mean?

It means linking public transport with active mobility. It includes new mobility services such as car- and bicycle-sharing and above all ridepooling. It’s all about sharing transport. This can radically reduce the number of private cars in cities.

What can be done to steer this process?

At present, we live in car-friendly cities which encourage ownership of private vehicles, so it is important to provide attractive alternatives which enable people to leave the car at home without any inconvenience to themselves. The use of public space must also be priced realistically. Car parking is a good example: where I live, on-street residents’ parking costs 20 euros a year, but a few blocks along, there is an underground garage where a parking space is sold for 40,000 euros. If the prices were harmonised, many car owners would surely consider getting rid of the car.

And what about rural areas?

People living in rural areas will undoubtedly still be reliant on private cars for the next 20 years, although there is now scope to create more flexible options through the use of digital technologies, for example. But generally, we are focusing more on climate-neutral mobility based on electric vehicles here.

What do you expect from the car industry?

The car industry’s business model is radically changing. For a hundred years and more, it was dominated by private cars powered by combustion engines. But in future, the companies which are likely to maintain their successful position are mainly those which adapt their business model and evolve into mobility service providers. We are already seeing competitors from other industries pushing into this market. The question is whether car-makers can move fast enough – they have been standing on the brakes for far too long. But policy-makers also need to step up the pace of the transformation at last.

Could you explain?

Structural change in the transport sector is coming – it will happen in any case because it is market-driven. The question is how well we prepare for it. There needs to be a discussion, early on, about a whole range of issues. How can products and services evolve? How do we manage this structural change? What kind of enabling environment do the new mobility services need? What can be done to provide social policy support for the transformation? Germany has to align its policies to this restructuring process; otherwise, there will be negative consequences for companies, for Germany itself as a business location and, not least, for the climate.

Thank you for talking to eco@work.
The interviewer was Christiane Weihe.

Further information about the article

Christian Hochfeld

Agora Verkehrswende
Smart Energy for Europe Platform (SEFEP) gGmbH
Anna-Louisa-Karsch-Str. 2
10178 Berlin

Tel.: +49 30 7001435-301


Prior to his appointment as Director of Agora Verkehrswende in 2016, Christian Hochfeld was employed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, where he headed the China Sustainable Transport Programme (SUTP). He previously worked for the Oeko-Institut for many years, from 1996 as a researcher and then as a member of the Executive Board from 2004 to 2010. A graduate in environmental engineering, he has been a member of the international advisory board of the Chinese Electric Vehicle Forum (China EV100) since 2015.


Further information (on external websites)

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