Germany’s current ruling party supports the implementation of new electric and hydrogen powered flight technologies as a strategy to cut down on carbon emissions. However, the German Green Party supports the reduction of short haul domestic flights in favour of expanding rail services.
As Germany heads into a federal election in September, the German Green party co-party leader Annalena Baerbock is the current front runner to take the chancellorship. However, the party has taken criticism from the current ruling party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), over their stance on reducing short haul domestic flights as a strategy to reduce their emissions. The CDU and airlines have argued that reducing cheap short haul flights will only hurt lower income travelers.
Oliver Krischer, a member of the German Bundestag and vice-chairman of the Green party’s parliamentary group disagrees. He told Global Green News, “If you look at the distribution of flights within the population, you see that air travel is already a luxury. In 2018, 65 percent of adults in Germany did not fly at all, while about 10 percent booked nearly a third of all flights. Hereby, you can see that while most people don’t fly at all, there is a small group that travels mainly by air…demand for air travel is concentrated on a small proportion of wealthy frequent flyers, the ecological consequences are shouldered by everyone.”
Instead of limiting short haul flights, the CDU is instead proposing the implementation of electric and hydrogen powered aircrafts but this technology is still far from becoming mainstream.
“Only one percent of the world’s population causes half of the CO2 emissions from passenger air travel.”Oliver Krischer to Global Green News
The need to reduce emissions
Currently Germany is not on track to meet their 2030 Paris Climate Agreement emission goals according to the Climate Action Tracker. These goals are not even sufficient to reduce global warming to below the recommended 1.5 oC, let alone 2oC. Air travel emissions play a substantial role in holding Germany back from achieving more ambitious climate goals. According to Krischer, “[because of the] immense kerosene consumption and additional secondary climate effects from flying at high altitudes, air travel is the most climate-damaging mode of transport. A timely reduction in air traffic therefore plays a central role in climate protection.”
The Green party’s platform is in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the 1.5-degree limit. To achieve this plan, much change and more ambitious goals are required. Oliver Krischer said to Global Green News that his party intends to “launch an immediate climate protection program that will initiate effective measures in all sectors, remove existing obstacles to expansion, and implement immediate savings opportunities. We will revise the inadequate Climate Protection Act and the Climate Protection Plan and – in line with the higher new European climate target – raise the German 2030 climate target to 70 percent.”
“Immediate and substantial action in the next few years is crucial”Oliver Krischer to Global Green News
Is electric and hydrogen power viable?
The CDU suggest alternative power sources for commercial flights such as hydrogen and electric power. However, from an aviation point of view, battery powered planes are far too heavy when compared to the amount of energy provided by jet fuel by weight.
Krischer does not deny that these technologies could be used in the future, but they are not yet powerful enough for large commercial flights. “Due to their short range, battery-powered aircraft could be used as an alternative for short-haul flights in the future while hydrogen-powered aircraft could serve medium-haul routes. Other, so-called power-to-liquid fuels could be used for long-haul flights,” said Krischer to Global Green News.
These technologies do exist today but are mainly in the prototype phase. He later explained, “Firstly, it should not be forgotten that none of these technologies are yet in the production phase on a larger scale. Second, huge amounts of renewable energy need to be provided for all of these climate-neutral solutions. For this, the expansion of renewable energies must be massively advanced. As a result, it is not expected to use the first hydrogen powered aircrafts until 2035 at the earliest. And even when that has been achieved, it will take another 20-30 years to replace a considerable part of the current fleet.” For these reasons the Green Party of Germany is committed to ensuring a robust rail transport network so that emissions are down and domestic transport is cheaper for the German public.
“Anyone who wants to travel by train should pay less than for a short-haul trip by plane.”Oliver Krischer to Global Green News