The environment ministers for Germany’s 16 federal states have signed a joint resolution calling for the speed limit on the autobahn to be temporarily reduced nationwide, to save fuel and reduce the country’s reliance on Russian gas. The move puts new pressure on the federal government. 

State environment ministers call for general autobahn speed limit

The topic of a general speed limit on the German autobahn is never far from the headlines in the federal republic, but the war in Ukraine has added new urgency to the issue. Calls have been growing in recent months for at least a temporary limit to reduce drivers’ fuel consumption and thus the use of Russian energy

So far, the push has generally stalled in the face of fierce opposition, most notably from the FDP party, which vetoed a proposal put forward by the Greens during coalition negotiations last year. Now, however, the Conference of Environment Ministers for Germany’s federal states have announced that they are in favour of a temporary speed limit nationwide on the autobahn, according to a report in Spiegel

Speed limit would reduce fuel consumption and reliance on Russian gas

According to Spiegel’s information, last Friday the ministers agreed on a resolution calling for a general speed limit for drivers on the autobahn, but did not specify which maximum speed limit should apply. Their paper describes the temporary limit as a “cost-effective, quick to implement and immediately effective measure” to help Germany consume less petrol and diesel and become less dependent on imports. 

The limit would also help to protect the climate, reduce noise and air pollution, and help to improve safety on German roads, the ministers argued. They added that, while the limit would “initially be introduced for a limited period during the ongoing conflict”, in the meantime the focus should be on the expansion of electromobility and public transport

“I think it’s absolutely right that we’re sending a visible signal,” the Environment Minister for Lower Saxony, Olaf Lies, told Spiegel. “We didn’t have an ideological debate,” but instead discussed pragmatic solutions to the supply crisis caused by the war, he explained. 

Move puts pressure on German government to act

While the ministers’ resolution is certainly significant, it doesn’t change anything for the time being, because a federal law is required to impose a general speed limit on the autobahn. However, the step does put extra pressure on a federal government that has so far been hesitant to act. 

“Now it’s the federal government’s turn,” Priska Hinz, Environment Minister for Hesse, tweeted over the weekend. 

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