Environmental data shows that transport sector is not on course in environmental protection

Only ten percent of rivers and streams have "good" ecological status, drinking water status is "high" virtually everywhere

LKW und Pkw auf der AutobahnClick to enlarge
The transport sector is the only sector which has failed to reduce its emissions since 1990.
Source: LVDESIGN / Fotolia.com

The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is lobbying for ambitious implementation of the climate protection action programme in the transport sector. "The transport sector is the only sector which has failed to reduce its emissions since 1990. With ever greater volumes of goods being transported by road and the trend towards more horsepower and heavier vehicles, the improved efficiency in engines has been of little benefit in terms of climate protection. It is urgent that the transport sector step up its efforts", said UBA's President Maria Krautzberger upon publication of the Environmental Data for 2015 (Daten zur Umwelt 2015) in Berlin. The transport sector is currently responsible for about 18 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Germany, with the largest emitter being the energy industry (39%). However, unlike the energy and industrial sectors, transport sector emissions have actually increased since 1990 (by 0.6% up until 2014).

Road traffic accounts for 95 per cent of the transport sector's greenhouse gas emissions. Road freight traffic volume is still too high. Road freight traffic expenditure increased by about 31% between 2000 and 2013. "We strongly urge a shifting from road freight to the railways and ships – the climate protection action programme emphasises this point appropriately. It would also be wise to extend the HGV toll to vehicles with a gross weight of 3.5 tonnes and more. And we must finally engage in a more intensive discussion about CO2 limit values for HGV. In this regard, we also require ambitious regulation", said Ms Krautzberger. Heavy goods vehicles in Germany emitted roughly 38.7 million tonnes of CO2 in 2013.

The balance is more positive with respect to water: 98 per cent of Germany's bathing waters in 2014 were in compliance with the requirements of the EU Bathing Water Directive. Drinking water is also very good virtually everywhere. In contrast, the ecological status of many rivers and streams does not measure up quite as well: only ten per cent of the natural watercourses in Germany achieved "good" status in accordance with the EU Water Framework Directive, and only one of the 72 coastal waters along the North and Baltic Seas could follow suit. Fish, plants and benthic invertebrates like mussels and snails are struggling with nitrogen in particular. Nitrogen inputs to rivers and lakes occur from the overuse of fertilisers in agriculture, leading to algae growth and depriving fish and other aquatic organisms of oxygen.

Ms Krautzberger issued a plea in the current process of amendment of the Fertilisers Ordinance to take targeted action to contain excessive nitrogen inputs: "The nitrogen surplus from agriculture is a major environmental problem. The amended Fertilisers Ordinance must ensure that slurry is used more efficiently and mixed more quickly into the soil. It is also important to increase the distance between bodies of water and agricultural land in order to decrease the input of nutrients from fields to rivers and lakes."

The UBA's Environmental Data also point to the need for action with regard to efficient and economic use of resources. Only about half of the objective to double resource productivity between 1994 and 2020 has been achieved. A major part of these gains in efficiency are due to the transfer of resource-intensive production abroad. In effect, every tonne of imported goods carries an average ecological rucksack of an additional 2.5 tonnes of raw materials from abroad.

There is good news that Germans are among Europe's leaders in recycling: 70 per cent of all waste was recycled (2012 data). "But it is not enough merely to redeem as many reusable materials as possible for recycling. It would be better to avoid the generation of waste in the first place. Devices must be designed in such a way as to be durable or at least easy to repair", said Ms Krautzberger. The EU could use the Ecodesign Directive as an instrument with which to prescribe a statutory minimum service life for all household appliances.

Environmental Data 2015 (Daten zur Umwelt 2015) represent an extract of the data available on UBA.de, where data is updated in a continuous process.

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