Climate action in transport: push and pull

New episode: “Will transport make the transition?”

The transition to climate-friendly transport will only succeed if alternative mobility options are rolled out at the same time as restrictions are imposed on climate-damaging, fossil fuel-powered mobility. In addition to a well-developed public transport system and widely available infrastructure for the charging of electric vehicles, for example, taxes on the purchase of a car should be considerably higher if that car generates high greenhouse gas emissions. All this is explained by Peter Kasten, Deputy Head of the Resources & Transport Division at the Oeko-Institut, in the new episode of the “Wenden bitte!” podcast.

The transformation of the German transport sector has not progressed far. Last year, it emitted nine million tonnes more CO2 than the target agreed under the Federal Climate Change Act. That is roughly equivalent to the emissions of three to four million motor cars. “To ensure that the transport sector finally makes its much-needed contribution to climate action, these and other measures must be tackled swiftly so that they have sufficient time to take effect”, says Peter Kasten.

“Will transport make the transition?” Oeko-Institut podcast

The podcast audio is in German; an English translation of the exchange is here.

Not just a powertrain shift but a transport transition

Focusing purely on promoting electric vehicles will not be enough to meet the transport sector’s climate targets, according to Kasten. Any reform of Germany’s Road Traffic Act and Road Traffic Regulations should give greater consideration to pedestrians, cyclists and local public transport. In the amended Road Traffic Regulations, environmental and climate aspects, health and road safety should be an important criterion for the planning and construction of transport routes and should also be given more weight in the drafting of the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan. Municipalities could then gear transport towards their particular climate action needs more than has been possible in the past, such as by introducing 30 km/h speed limits or parking space management with less bureaucracy.

During the podcast, Kasten also calls for the sustainable transformation in transport to be linked to financial support for low-income households. Because currently, access to mobility is still unequally distributed: for instance, more than 40 per cent of very low-income households do not have a car. Today it is therefore mainly the higher income brackets that benefit from exemptions and tax breaks.

Usage-based financing of infrastructure in future

Peter Kasten points out in the podcast that with the phase-out of the combustion engine, revenues from the petroleum tax will fall away. This means that the federal budget will be missing some money in future, just as that money is needed for the expansion of climate-friendly infrastructure. One option for refinancing the financial shortfalls would be a mileage-based car toll. This could also be used to put a new price on the non-material costs of transport, like noise and land use. As yet there are still many unanswered questions regarding its detailed design, which Kasten says must be addressed with a timely, thorough and fact-based discussion that helps to create acceptance within society.

Knowledge rather than everyday advice

The Oeko-Institut's podcast “Wenden bitte!” – “All change please!” is aimed at listeners from politics, science, the media, NGOs and the general public – anyone with an interest in political and environmental issues. Co-presenters of the podcast are Nadine Kreutzer, journalist and presenter, and Mandy Schossig, Head of Public Relations & Communications at the Oeko-Institut. For about an hour – enough time for the “long haul of environmental podcasts” – they talk with one of the Oeko-Institut’s experts about upcoming transformations towards sustainability.

Season 3

Episode 3: “Will transport make the transition?” with Peter Kasten, released 6 April 2023, recorded 27 March 2023

Episode 2: "Sustainability through digitalisation?" with Carl-Otto Gensch, released 25 February 2023

Episode 1: "Can the forests still be saved?" with Dr Hannes Böttcher, released 12 January 2023

All 17 podcast episodes up to now are at:

The podcast is available on all the usual podcast portals – such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify