Construction can be halted on highways and trunk roads

Can the expansion and new construction of federal trunk roads and thus also freeways in germany be stopped with legal certainty?? An expert opinion commissioned by NABU answers this question positively. Accordingly, nothing legally stands in the way of a freeway moratorium.

Construction can be halted on highways and trunk roads
Construction can be halted on highways and trunk roads

A stop to new highway construction is possible - Photo: Helge May

it is possible to get off the new highway – photo: helge may

08. July 2021 – the transport sector is one of the big drivers of the climate crisis. Nevertheless, freeways and federal trunk roads continue to be built, even though this contradicts the climate targets to which germany has committed itself. A legal opinion commissioned by NABU has therefore put the requirements plan to the test. The result:

The current demand plan has not been adequately checked for compatibility with climate or land protection targets by today’s standards. NABU therefore calls for this to be done now in order to avoid further sealing of land, the fragmentation of valuable natural areas and excessive greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector. The so-called highway moratorium, i.e. a temporary suspension of further construction projects, will allow time to make the necessary adjustments to the federal transport infrastructure and demand plan in order to comply with existing environmental and climate protection targets.

NABU President Jorg-Andreas Kruger - Photo: NABU/Die Hoffotografen

"nature must not be further destroyed for superfluous road construction. The current federal traffic route plan concretes a status that is hostile to climate and nature. We therefore need a construction freeze now in order to gain time for needs-based new planning and to put climate and species protection at the center of action. as there are no legal obstacles, the federal parliament and the federal government are requested to initiate a construction break as soon as possible. To this end, the trunk road expansion act could be made subject to a proviso and earmarked financial resources in the federal budget could be set aside or reallocated for preservation. This would be a concrete step towards finally underpinning the recently tightened climate targets with appropriate measures in the transport sector and thus implementing them. Here, the parties must explain how they will ensure that the necessary realignment of the federal transport infrastructure plan becomes the backbone of the upcoming mobility turnaround. Otherwise, billions of taxpayers’ money will continue to be wasted on nonsensical infrastructure projects and, on top of that, the environment and biodiversity will be severely damaged."

NABU president jorg-andreas kruger

Improving compatibility with climate and land use targets

For years, the federal government and the relevant authorities have been overlooking the actual environmental impact of planned transport infrastructure. Neither the federal transport infrastructure plan nor the current requirements plan were examined in the course of the strategic environmental assessment in 2016 for their compatibility with the paris climate protection agreement or the federal government’s land consumption targets.

Land use changes due to the destruction of natural CO2 sinks such as forests and moors are also not priced in. This omission must now be remedied, especially in the context of the climate ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court. The legal opinion shows that a new construction and expansion freeze is possible with legal certainty – and how this can be implemented.

The legal opinion argues that there are no binding timelines or other legal implementation obligations with the federal transport plan that require new construction and expansion of federal trunk roads in the coming years. In addition, the environmental framework conditions have changed significantly compared to the original environmental assessment in 2016, so that this must be taken into account in the current review of the requirements plan.

No new planning approval procedures should be initiated, at least until the current review of the demand plan has been completed. Current planning approval procedures should be suspended and the implementation of federal trunk roads that have already been approved should be abandoned for the time being. For this, a proviso must be anchored in the trunk road expansion law so that no planning justification is given for new and ongoing planning approval procedures because the climate and land protection targets are not met. The earmarked funding must be set aside in the federal budget, should not be approved, or should be reallocated for the maintenance of existing infrastructure.

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