At a glance
- Between 2014 and 2017, 58 hectares (ha) of land per day were newly dedicated to settlements and transport infrastructure.
- The Federal Government aims to reduce this figure to 30 ha per day by 2020 and below 30 ha per day by 2030.
- Additional actions are necessary in order to achieve these targets.
The conversion of agricultural land, forests or grassland to settlements and transport infrastructure has significant environmental impacts. Much of the land is covered with buildings and other facilities or sealed to expand transport networks. This destroys the natural fertility of soils, thereby impeding future (re-)use for agriculture and forestry. Sealed surfaces (i.e. asphalted or paved) lose their ability to regulate the microclimate and are unable to mitigate the overheating of towns and cities in summer. In addition, the loss of these areas has an adverse effect on species diversity as the new settlements and transport infrastructure increase fragmentation of landscapes and reduce the size of habitats.
Furthermore, newly developed settlements and transport infrastructure generate additional traffic which in turn creates noise and pollution. Material consumption also increases for the construction of buildings and transport routes. New buildings and infrastructures have to be operated, thereby energy consumption increases as well.
Assessing the development
Between 2014 and 2017, on average 58 hectares of land per day were designated for settlements and transport development. In the Climate Action Plan 2050, the Federal Government has confirmed the target of reducing the amount of new land for settlements and transport infrastructure to 30 ha per day by 2020 (BMUB 2016). As part of its revised German Sustainable Development Strategy, the Federal Government has set itself the target of reducing land take for settlements and transport infrastructure to ‘30 minus X’ ha per day or ‘below 30’ ha per day by 2030 (BReg 2016). The Integrated Environmental Programme 2030 sets a target of 20 ha per day for 2030 (BMUB 2016).
Land-take for settlements and transport infrastructure almost has halved since 2000. This was due to enforced legislation on planning and construction, increased efforts at federal state and local levels, slower economic growth and demographic change. If the trend of the last five years were to continue, the target ‘30 minus X’ would be achieved even before 2030. Maintaining the trend, however, is an ambitious objective.
According to the Climate Action Plan 2050 the Federal Government strives at halting the net increase of land designated for settlements and transport infrastructure in Germany by 2050 at the latest. The German Environment Agency has compiled recommendations for policy measures in a publication (UBA 2009, in German only).
The indicator represents the average increase in land used for settlements and transport infrastructure in hectares per day, based on each of the last four calendar years. Land for settlements and transport infrastructure includes buildings and open spaces, operational areas as stockyards, dumps and heaps (excluding extraction land), recreational facilities, cemeteries and transport routes and other transport facilities. The indicator is calculated annually by the Federal Statistical Office on the basis of land use data reported by the Federal States. In many cases these are subject to one-off effects and have to be partially corrected by the Federal Statistical Office. Methodological hints thereto are given in the introduction to the publication ‘Bodenfläche nach Art der tatsächlichen Nutzung’ (Destatis 2018, in German only).
More detailed information: 'Siedlungs- und Verkehrsfläche' (in German only).