Even though car industry critics were invited to the first mobility summit held by Chancellor Scholz, it is still a contentious topic

The German chancellor hopes to redouble efforts to address the nation’s lagging emissions reduction in the transport sector at the country’s first mobility meeting under Olaf Scholz on January 10. Scholz will meet with members of the nation’s powerful automotive industry as well as civil society opponents of the sector’s climate-damaging policies. However, NGOs that were not present at the summit have said that the conference does not adequately address structural issues in the industry.

The “strategy platform for a transformation in the automotive and mobility industry,” a group established in 2022 under Scholz’s coalition government and tasked with giving the transition in the transportation sector a new foundation, will meet at the German chancellery, according to newspaper Die Welt. Along with the CEOs of automakers Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, and others, Agora Verkehrswende, the Evangelical Church, and an NGO coalition “for a socially acceptable mobility transition” made up of environmental organizations like Nabu or BUND are among the attendees, according to the newspaper.

The publication noted that “representatives of the American corporation Tesla are not included,” calling this “rather strange” in light of the company’s rapidly expanding production capacity at its new factory close to Berlin. The bicycle lobby, pro-railroad organizations, and suppliers to the car industry were also noticeable omissions from the list, according to Die Welt. A breakthrough at the summit seems improbable due to divergent viewpoints within the governing coalition of Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party with Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) of Transport Minister Volker Wissing.

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As customers were prepared to make Germany the technology’s “lead market” in Europe, the energy industry organization BDEW said the meeting should create the foundation for a strategy that puts up to 15 million electric cars on German roads by 2030. The meeting was criticized by the NGO LobbyControl for continuing to favor economic interests over environmental concerns and giving the auto sector “special access to legislators.”

While the inclusion of members from civil society was a step forward in this direction, Christina Deckwirth of LobbyControl noted that the forum “remains imbalanced with respect to participants and the themes discussed.” The summit was criticized by the transportation NGO VCD for using the phrase “mobility” while placing a strong emphasis on the auto sector as a partner rather than other types of mobility. “Connected and multimodal mobility is the way of the future. Its mainstay is public transportation, which includes additional buses, trains, and sharing options in addition to walking and bicycling, according to VCD director Kerstin Haarmann.

A government advisory group harshly criticized the transportation sector’s shortcomings in reducing emissions last year, while the nation’s auto industry struggles with the dual challenges of a regulatory transition away from combustion engines and the challenging business environment brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the energy crisis. Automobile manufacturers say that in order to hasten the shift to electric vehicles, the government must provide significant funding for the construction of charging infrastructure.