Germany selects lower gear, supports 30% CO2 car cuts

Chancellor Angela Merkel insists that anything over 30% would hurt the European car industry. [360b / Shutterstock]

Germany’s environment ministry revealed on Wednesday (26 September) that the Bundesrepublik will back an EU-wide 30% CO2 cut for cars and vans – lower than expected by green NGOs – ahead of an important vote in the European Parliament next week.

The belated decision from the Germans means that talks can proceed in earnest within the European Council towards a common position, as member states, the Parliament and the European Commission will have to broker a final deal.

A German environment ministry spokesperson told a news conference on Wednesday that Germany will back 30% fleet cuts as a more ambitious target could have resulted in lack of agreement, which “would be the worst case scenario for the environment”.

But environmental groups were non-plussed by the result. Daniel Rieger, with German green NGO NABU, criticised the ministry for climbing down from its initial drive for 50% and called it a “massive lobby success for the car industry”.

Brussels-based clean mobility group Transport & Environment called Germany’s “backward” position a risk to its own climate goals, as further emission cuts will have instead to be found in sectors like agriculture.

Berlin divided over cars' CO2 limits, hindering EU decision

The German parliament, the Bundestag, is hosting a public hearing on Wednesday (27 June) on the European Commission’s proposal on cars’ CO2 emission limits for 2025/30 in a bid to find a consensus between the different ministries.

The decision follows comments made by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday (25 September) that confirmed she thinks any target over 30% would make the European car industry uncompetitive.

Many carmakers, grouped under the umbrella of industry association ACEA, baulked at the Commission’s initial proposal and have adopted a “realistic” position of 20% instead.

T&E’s clean vehicles manager Julia Poliscanova added that German automotive jobs will actually be put at risk by “its own carmakers investing in electric car production in China”, a massive emerging market.

Berlaymont regrets?

Germany’s position means it will find itself in the same boat as the Commission, which also proposed 30% in its initial calculations.

But the EU executive decided to publish an advisory white paper this week, which reveals data about 50% and 75% scenarios, including information on predicted job losses.

The non-binding document, meant to inform diplomatic talks, says 30% will cut transport pollution by 21-22% by 2030, while a more stringent goal of 50% would take that cut to 26-27%.

It is not the first time EU officials have come out with more figures to back up the Commission’s position or correct some wrongs after the publication of its initial proposal. A similar tactic was used during negotiations on the energy efficiency and renewables directives at the beginning of this year.

MEPs on the Parliament’s environment committee agreed earlier this month on a draft report that backs a 45% reduction, while some member states like the Netherlands are expected to push for even higher targets during the upcoming negotiations.

T&E’s Poliscanova said that “at least 19 member states are now asking for higher reductions of at least 40% by 2030”.

MEPs put pedal to metal and boost car CO2 limits

Carmakers will have to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030, according to members of the European Parliament’s environment committee, who voted on Monday night (10 September) to tune up a European Commission proposal.

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