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22nd Feb 2020

German EU presidency struggles with climate change

The German car industry has warned that there will be massive job cuts if Brussels sets binding targets on greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the German EU presidency is strongly divided over the issue itself.

In a letter quoted by Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper over the weekend, the chiefs of BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Opel and Volkswagen have strongly urged the commission to withdraw plans to make manufacturers reduce the CO2 emissions of new cars sold in the EU to an average of 120 grammes per km in 2012.

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The commission plans originate from Greek environment commissioner Stavros Dimas but are opposed by Germany's industry commissioner Guenther Verheugen, with the commission last week deciding to delay a decision on the issue due to a lack of consensus between commissioners.

In a bid to influence Brussels' final position over the issue - expected to emerge in the coming weeks - German car producers have now sketched a grim scenario which would see a huge loss of manufacturing jobs from Europe to elsewhere in the world.

According to their letter, Mr Dimas' scheme would mean "a massive industry-political intervention at the expense of the car industry in Europe as a whole, but particularly in Germany."

Mr Dimas believes binding legislation is necessary since car makers failed to meet their voluntary commitments, made in 2004, to reduce emissions to an industry average of 140 g per km by 2008.

Presidency divided

The issue has meanwhile exposed a deep political rift also within the German government which currently chairs the EU.

Economy minister Michael Glos - a conservative - is backing the car industry and Mr Verhuegen, while environment minister Sigmar Gabriel - a social democrat - is supporting the Dimas camp.

Mr Glos over the weekend publicly fell out with Mr Gabriel, telling Bild am Sonntag "The plans, conducted by Greek EU commissioner Dimas and environment minister Sigmar Gabriel against the German car industry, have to be urgently stopped."

Mr Gabriel told Brussels journalists last week that binding legislation against CO2 emissions is necessary, with Die Welt quoting his spokesman as saying Mr Glos should have a look at the 2005 German coalition agreement which apparently backs up the environment minister's position.

It is not the first time that the two ministers clash over EU measures against climate change, with Mr Gabriel last week also rejecting a suggestion by Mr Glos that Germany should take the commission to court over emission quotas for German industry under the EU's Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).

Brussels in November last year decided to slash Berlin's allowances to emit greenhouse gasses under the scheme, prompting Mr Glos to look at the possibilities of suing Brussels at the European Court of Justice.

Mr Gabriel said however last week that Mr Glos' suggestion would undermine the German EU presidency's goal of fighting climate change.

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