Luxembourg – EU ministers are battling over the extent of emission cuts to be imposed on carmakers, in the wake of a warning by UN experts on the dangers of global warming.
Auto-making power Germany is leading a fierce resistance to a compromise plan tabled by Austria, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.
The Austrain plan would see a 35 percent CO2 reduction for new cars by 2030 — nine years later than the 2021 date in current plans.
German opposition is backed by eastern European member states — while Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Nordic states are pushing for more ambitious reductions.
Austria’s proposal is greater than the target of 30 percent suggested by the European Commission, the EU executive, but it remains well below the 40 percent cut advocated by the European Parliament in a vote last week.
German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, a social democrat, said on Tuesday that she would have liked to be able to support a more ambitious cut on behalf of Berlin, particularly after the alarm signal sent by IPCC experts.
Map showing average CO2 emissions of passenger cars across the EU in 2017
But she admitted that her coalition partner the CDU, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was pushing the tougher line, which she would defend at the Luxembourg meeting.
Germany — home to Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW — is worried that if targets are set too high it would hurt exports and threaten jobs.
“I will represent the coordinated position,” Schulze said.
The ministerial talks in Luxembourg are expected to drag on late with any compromise achieved set for tough negotiations with MEPs and the commission in the coming weeks.
France, home to Renault and Peugeot, wants “a 40 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from cars in 2030”, French Environment Minister François de Rugy said as he arrived for the talks.
Countries pushing for a more ambitious position pointed the finger directly at Berlin.
Principle conclusions of the NOAA “State of the Climate” report on 2017
“The German car industry is pushing the German environment policy against the wall, we want to put an end to this today,” Luxembourg’s Secretary of State for Sustainable Development, Claude Turmes, said.
In the absence of consensus, a European official said the decision could go to a majority vote, which Berlin risks losing.
Member States will also have to agree on targets for the share of electric vehicles in the overall fleet of car manufacturers, set at 35 percent by 2030 and 20 percent by 2025 by the European Parliament.
Tuesday’s meeting is also expected to adopt the EU’s position at COP24, the UN climate summit to be held in December in Katowice, Poland.
On Monday, UN climate experts urged policy makers to adopt “rapid” and “unprecedented” reforms if they want to adequately limit global warming caused by CO2 gas emissions.
By Alex Pigman