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Car ban for the climate?

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the federal government is not doing enough to protect the climate. According to the ruling, personal freedom is less important than the fight against global warming. Driving a car could also be drastically restricted.

The initiative "Volksentscheid Berlin autofrei" in Berlin wants to ban cars for the most part. This sounds radical, but it could soon become reality in many places in Germany. This is because the Constitutional Court says that the German government's climate package is not sufficient. In order to quickly make improvements, personal freedoms may also be restricted, as these take a back seat to the fight against climate change.

In the climate package, the government has set the CO2 reduction by 2030 at 55% compared to the 1990 level. For the period after 2030, there are no plans in the law that specify how much CO2 must be reduced to reach the 1.5 degree target. However, since a large part of the permitted CO2 emissions would already have been used up by 2030, the burden would, according to the Constitutional Court's ruling, lie mainly on future generations, i.e. after 2030. Then hardly any CO2 would be allowed to be released into the atmosphere. The reduction of CO2 according to the climate package would therefore violate the "protection of life and physical integrity" enshrined in the Basic Law, which also includes the "protection against impairments and in particular against damage to fundamental rights protected by environmental pollution".

The German government has already made improvements and raised the reduction to 65% by 2030 compared to the 1990 level. On paper, that sounds nice at first. However, the fact that this value has been adjusted does not change anything. So, in order to actually implement the reduction of CO2, a lot has to happen in the economic as well as in the private sector. Since personal freedoms may be restricted according to the Constitutional Court, the government could also tackle driving and flying. Driving bans and car-free zones or the banning of internal combustion cars could thus come much sooner than thought. The judges also stated that the right to personal freedom would diminish the more climate change progressed. So the more we drive cars and blow CO2 into the atmosphere, the less we will be allowed to do so in the near future.

In fact, the environmental zones in Germany still allow much older vehicles than in other countries. These vehicles often have a high consumption of diesel and petrol and thus emit a lot of CO2. Even petrol cars from 1993, i.e. almost 30 years old, are still allowed to enter the environmental zones in Germany. Since the stickers were introduced in 2008, the rules have remained virtually unchanged. A tightening away from the red and yellow stickers in 2014 was also not properly implemented. Actually, the green sticker should be mandatory everywhere, but in Neu-Ulm, for example, you can still drive in with the yellow sticker. The diesel driving ban zones, except in Stuttgart, only affect individual streets and therefore hardly have any effect. Germany should take other countries as a model and tighten the rules in the environmental zones. In Paris, for example, a sticker 2 ban has already been set from 2024. This includes all diesel vehicles, as well as petrol cars with Euro standard 4.

But even if the old vehicles are locked out, CO2 emissions could still be too high. E-cars also produce a lot of CO2 when they are charged with an electricity mix made from coal. Therefore, a general ban on vehicles, or a sharp reduction in the number of trips allowed per year, is also conceivable.

What the government imposes on us remains to be seen. But we should already save CO2 where we can, so that we can still drive cars and fly on holiday in the future.