German recovery plan gives a green light for fossil mobility

Transport emissions in Germany are on the rise. But rather than investing in emission-free mobility solutions, the draft recovery plan envisages subsidising fossil mobility.

In a nutshell:

  • The German plan continues to subsidize fossil-fuel-driven mobility
  • Measures subsidize heavy duty vehicles and plug-in hybrids, which have much higher emissions than officially indicated
  • This blatantly contradicts the “do no significant harm” principle


The transport sector accounts for about 20% of German greenhouse gas emissions, and remains the only sector where emissions are still rising. However, the German draft Recovery plan from December 2020 does not promote a transition towards sustainable and climate-friendly mobility. It only provides €2.5 billion for an “innovation premium” to support low-carbon car purchases, which however includes CO2-intensive plug-in hybrids. It also allocates €1 billion for a fleet renewal program for heavy duty transport vehicles – in other words, it subsidizes trucks with combustion engines.

The fleet renewal programme for heavy duty vehicles allows companies to exchange old trucks for new ones with grants of up to €15,000 per vehicle. The old trucks are then scrapped. Hence, the vast majority of these funds will be spent to buy new trucks with combustion engines.

The ‘innovation premium’ doubles up an existing program to support purchases of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Consumers will receive between €5’625 and €6’750 in support for buying plug-in hybrids, which are still heavily reliant on internal combustion engines. Emissions tests under road conditions have shown that plug-in hybrids emit on average 2-4 times as much CO2 as stated by manufacturers. Thus, plug-in hybrids represent a considerable threat to the climate, but their support is nonetheless listed as a climate protection measure in the German Recovery plan.

Both measures are already contained in the German €130 billion stimulus package which was adopted in June 2020 (Konjunktur und Zukunftspaket) and were also included in the draft Recovery Plan in December 2020. These measures are in clear violation of the “do no significant harm” principle. Germany should abandon fossil fuel subsidies in the transport sector and replace them with special programmes to expand public transport, rail electrification, passenger coaches, sleeping cars for night trains and cycling infrastructure.


German Ministry of Finance, German Recovery and Resilience Plan (2020) (in German)

German Ministry of Finance, Corona-Folgen bekämpfen, Wohlstand sichern, Zukunftsfähigkeit stärken (2020) (in German)

Bundesamt für Güterverkehr, Flottenerneuerung (2020) (in German)

Deutsche Umwelthilfe, Hintergrundpapier Plug-in-Hybride (2020)