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Berlin to become a zero-emission zone

Berlin's urban area is to be closed to internal combustion vehicles. But after the draft law already stated 2030 as the implementation date, this deadline has now disappeared from the law. Implementation has thus been put on the back burner. But to when?

On Monday, the Berlin coalition agreed on the key points of a package of measures for the climate emergency. This emergency was declared at the end of 2019 to make it easier to introduce climate protection into laws. The government around Transport Minister Regine Günther (Grüne) had already drafted a bill on this, in which the urban area within the Berlin S-Bahn ring was to become a zero-emission zone by 2030. By 2035, the entire city area was to follow suit, thus completely barring internal combustion vehicles from Berlin. Since then, however, nothing has happened with this climate protection plan.

In the new package of measures, which also includes the "Urban Development Plan for Mobility and Transport", these annual figures are now missing. Instead, the goals are to be implemented in the medium term. Thus, the urgency of implementing measures towards a zero-emission zone is lost. The expansion of the charging infrastructure is also included in the new draft law. However, without a binding deadline for the implementation of the zone, charging stations are also less important.

The coalition partners do not see any losses in the rewording of the law: "In fact, of course, it will come down to 2030, everyone has the time horizon of ten years in mind," said parliamentary group leader Silke Gebel (Grüne). The meaning of these words fades when exactly this time horizon had to be deleted from the draft so that agreement could be reached. The city had only recently received new diesel buses, which were actually supposed to be used until beyond 2030. So the government gives itself an easy way out of not having to retrofit the buses.

The package of measures also contains other issues that remain controversial. For example, the introduction of a 365-euro ticket for buses and trains is being discussed. A city toll and an increase in parking fees for residents are also being discussed in order to have a steering effect. The city could invest the additional revenue in green mobility such as the expansion of public transport.

In addition to the dispute over the zero-emission zone, work continues on the car-free concept on Berlin's Friedrichstraße. Because of the Corona pandemic, the test phase, which was supposed to last until the beginning of this year, has been extended until October 2021. It is not yet possible to say how the concept will be accepted and whether businesses will benefit or suffer from the promenade. A new concept should now also take into account the wishes of the residents.

With the coalition's tough talks shying away from concrete plans, it looks as if little will change in Berlin for the time being on the subject of the environmental zone and the driving ban.