18th May 2021

Verheugen maintains distance from EU car emissions plans

  • Is it also immoral to own a big house that costs a lot to heat, asks Mr Verheugen (Photo: European Commission)

EU industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen on Monday (14 January) reiterated his concerns over the commission's plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars, saying they should be structured in a way that does not harm European carmakers' position on the world stage.

"Economy and ecology are not inevitable enemies," Mr Verheugen told MEPs, pointing out that the European automotive industry is one of the few industries in which Europe is still the world leader.

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Under the commission plans, the average carbon dioxide emissions of new cars must be reduced to 130 grammes per kilometre from 2012. If the binding target is missed, across their car fleet, manufacturers will be fined €95 per gram over the limit by 2015.

However, Mr Verheugen refused to give his nod of approval to the proposal when it was discussed and tabled last December. In addition, he did not attend a press conference to announce the package with his colleague, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.

"All industries should be made as environmentally-friendly as technologically possible, but I don't think we should do it in a way that our international competitiveness in undermined," Mr Verheugen said.

He went on to warn against "getting to the point that industry emigrates" to set up production somewhere else.

He argued that this would translate not only into enormous job losses, but also into more pollution, as companies outside Europe produce their products under less stringent green rules.

Mr Verheugen, who is from Germany, the biggest producer of some of the fastest and most luxurious cars world-wide, also suggested a well-balanced approach to all kinds of products.

"If it's immoral to drive a big car and pollute more than somebody who drives a small car, it is equally immoral to live in the enormously big house that costs a lot to heat," Germany's commissioner said, pointing out that the commission should not regulate people's lifestyle.

The European car industry as a whole produces 19 million vehicles each year, providing 2.3 million direct jobs and a further 10 million in ancillary sectors.

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