Sustainable development in Germany - 17 Goals to Transform our World

Land use – Using land sustainably

Indicator 11.1.a: Expansion of settlement and transport area

(Evaluation of the development of Germany in the reporting year 2018 as reporting year from indicator report 2021)


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This overview includes additional information on the indicators presented above, such as a brief definition of the indicator and a description of the politically determined target value, as well as the political intention for selecting the indicator.

Definition of indicators (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

The indicator shows the average daily expansion of the area used for settlement and transport infrastructure in hectares per day.

Target and intention of the German Government (Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy)

Land is a limited resource. It is subject to competition from various interests, including agriculture and forestry, settlement and transport, nature conservation, resource extraction and energy generation. The development of additional land for settlement and transport purposes is to be limited to an average of less than 30 hectares per day by 2030. The goal is to establish a closed-loop land-use regime by 2050, meaning that, in net terms, no additional area will be developed for the purposes of settlement or transport.

Data state

The data published in the indicator report 2021 is as of 31.12.2020. The data shown on the DNS-Online-Platform is updated regularly, so that more current data may be available online than published in the indicator report 2021.

Last modification of code (data) 2021-07-01: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window
Last modification of code (text) 2021-09-10: see changes on GitHub opens in a new window

Taken from the official translation of the German Sustainable Development Strategy

Settlement and transport area should not be equated with sealed land. Settlement land includes areas used for residential building, industry and commerce, public facilities, recreational amenities or cemeteries. It also covers land used for surface or sub-surface mining. However, mining land is not counted in the calculations for this indicator, as it ends up being reclaimed for other uses in the long term (e.g. as renaturalised post-mining landscapes). Transport area is made up of four subcategories: road transport, rail, aviation and shipping. The indicator therefore refers not only to sealed areas but also to undeveloped and unsealed land. These include, for example, domestic gardens, parks and other green spaces. As calculated in the environmental economic accounts compiled by the Länder, the sealed share of their settlement and transport area is estimated at 45% on average (2017).

The indicator is derived from the area survey by type of actual use (official land-use statistics), which in turn is based on data from the official land register maintained by the Länder. Some areas of land have been reclassified in the official land register in recent years without any actual change in the way they are used. To balance out the effect this has on the statistics for any particular year, a four-year moving average is also shown, averaging out the year in question and the three preceding years. Moreover, the switch from the old to the new land-use classification system was completed in 2016, which affected the official land-use statistics such that the data for 2016 are not directly comparable to those for previous years. It is for this reason that the overall indicator value for 2016 is also not subdivided into types of settlement or transport use.

From 2000 to 2018, 5,880 km² of land was converted into settlement and transport area. This is equivalent to more than twice the area of Saarland. The majority, 84%, was converted into settlement land, while 16% went to accommodate transport infrastructure.

The four-year moving average of previously undeveloped areas newly converted to settlement or transport area continuously decreased throughout the time series, going from 129 hectares per day in 2000 down to 56 hectares per day in 2018. Considered for each reporting year separately, the value for new settlement or transport area was lowest in 2016, at 51 hectares per day. The figure has risen again since then, to 58 hectares per day in 2018.

In 2018, the area of settlement or transport use amounted to 49,819 km², or 14% of the total area of Germany. The largest land types in Germany are agricultural land at 181,625 km² (51%) followed by woodland at 106,546 km² (30%).

Settlement and transport area grew by 565 km² between 2016 and 2018. Agricultural land shrank by 1,012 km² during the same period, while woodland grew by 376 km². It can therefore be assumed that the increase in settlement and transport area was primarily at the expense of agricultural land.

This summary table illustrates the evaluations of the indicator by status of previous years. This shows whether the weather symbol for an indicator has been stable or rather volatile in the past years. (Evaluations from the indicator report 2021)


11.1.a Expansion of settlement and transport area in ha per day


Reduction to under 30 ha on average per day by 2030






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Source 1

 Federal Statistical Office


Federal Statistical Office

Source 2

 Länderinitiative Kernindikatoren


Länderinitiative Kernindikatoren

Data source Land consumption (only available in German) opens in a new window