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Opinion: Energy transition as role model

Energy transition as blueprint for the mobility transistion

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The transport revolution needs bright minds. One of them is Kerstin Haarmann. The Federal Chairwoman of Verkehrsclub Deutschland e.V. (VCD) explains why a modern legal framework and committed action are crucial to achieving sustainable mobility. An article from the new issue of our polisMOBILITY print magazine ‘Public Interest’.

Kerstin Haamann from a sideview on a bike

© Richard Westebbe

What do the energy transition and the transport transition have in common? That's right, the ‘turnaround’ towards environmentally friendly living and economic activity. For Verkehrsclub Deutschland e.V. (VCD), the transport transition is achieved when, in addition to the decarbonisation of transport, everyone - regardless of their place of residence, wallet or physical condition - has the choice of how to get from A to B in a comfortable, safe and environmentally friendly way and the means of transport of the environmental network - i.e. bus and train, bicycle, walking, car sharing and taxi - are always the first choice! To achieve this, there must be an appropriate range of public transport options, which always have priority, and the rampant use of private cars must be curbed, for example through entry and transit restrictions in sensitive areas according to the motto ‘Residents First, Transit Drivers Second’, closures in school streets, a car toll, a limit and appropriate pricing for parking in public spaces, and strict monitoring of compliance with pollutant and noise emissions in any case.

How can the energy and mobility transition succeed for the common good? The energy transition is already on the right track. This is because the modernised Energy Industry Act provides a sensible legal framework and - most importantly - the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) is a powerful and very effective instrument that has provided renewable energies with basic, adequate funding and, above all, feed-in priority over conventional energies. This was all done for the common good, as there is no alternative to phasing out fossil fuels to avert the impending climate crisis. At least as long as there is no more climate-friendly energy generation than that from solar, wind, biomass and hydropower.

Initiating change together

Another decisive factor for the success of the energy transition was individual committed pioneers and the citizen energy cooperatives (citizen wind farms, citizen solar plants). They have shown with considerable technical, economic and political commitment against almost overwhelming resistance from the four large conventional oligopolistic energy suppliers (EON, RWE, EnBW and Viag) that renewable energies, especially wind power, work and are wanted. Today, the renewable energy sector is characterised by medium-sized companies with a high proportion of cooperatives or other forms of participation. The oligopolists of the past have changed tack late and are now also building large-scale projects, albeit mainly offshore or abroad. In Germany onshore, civil society and the small and medium-sized companies that have developed from it have beaten them to the good locations.

Learning from role models and setting the course

The transport transition can learn a lot from the energy transition. There are a number of parallels, even if differences remain:

The legal framework

The transport transition urgently needs a new legal framework. Transport law is completely outdated and unsuitable for the challenges of our time. The Road Traffic Act dates back to the 1930s, parts of the railway law to the 19th century. As a civil society NGO, the VCD has therefore submitted a draft of a federal mobility law in which the orientation towards the common good is finally established as the guiding objective of transport policy, including the individual objectives of environmental and health protection, road safety, urban development, land economy and efficiency of the transport system. Furthermore, federal transport routes are to be planned and financed in an integrated manner by means of a new federal mobility plan: Where the railways are expanded in the future, we do not need a new motorway today.

The right incentives

Among other things, the new draft law as an important steering instrument is intended to incentivise the federal states to determine their target contribution to the transport transition through voluntary commitments and thus receive corresponding funding from the federal government. Furthermore, we can all promote the transport transition: In neighbourhood initiatives, we can campaign for a 30 km/h speed limit in urban areas for health and noise protection and to improve road safety and thus ‘reclaim’ our own streets. We can set up parents' initiatives for safe routes to school and, for example, campaign for the establishment of school roads that are temporarily closed to traffic at the start and end of the school day. We can buy the Deutschlandticket, cycle or even use cargo bikes and car sharing.

Financing the turnaround

The transport transition must also be adequately financed: According to studies, around 18-24 billion euros per year are required for the expansion of public transport alone. This money is not in sight in the current budgetary situation, where investment is restricted by the debt brake. There must be secure funding here, as there is for renewable energies in the energy transition. The same applies to the urgently needed refurbishment of the rail infrastructure, which has an investment backlog of around 90 billion euros. Not to mention the investment funds for the likewise urgently needed rail expansion to double passenger numbers. Why should this capital not be raised through co-operatives in which the civilian population can participate and receive a moderate but steady return? It goes without saying that ownership of the railway infrastructure must remain in federal ownership.

About the author

About the author

Kerstin Haarmann, born in 1966, has been the honorary national chairwoman of Verkehrsclub Deutschland e.V. (VCD) for five years. She was an international corporate lawyer, including five years as chief legal counsel for an IT company listed on the MDAX.

She then switched to a career in sustainability and association management. Together with her husband, she runs a non-profit limited company dedicated to sustainable business and living. She has also been actively involved in local politics for many years.

Kerstin Haarmann is committed to mobility that puts people at the centre, not individual modes of transport.


Kerstin Haamann