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German automotive industry criticizes stricter EU climate goals

The German automotive industry has criticized the agreement reached Wednesday between national governments in the European Union (EU) to set stricter carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets in the bloc.


"I think it is regrettable that a majority of member states could not bring themselves to strike a balance between climate policy and employment in Europe," Bernhard Mattes, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), told the radio station rbb-Inforadio. Mattes announced that his organization would continue to "participate with our arguments in this discussion" in subsequent rounds of negotiations between the bloc's key governing institutions -- the EU Commission, EU Council, and European Parliament.


On Tuesday night, member states agreed on a compromise after 13 hours of negotiations in the Council to lower CO2 emission limits by 35 percent for new passenger vehicles and by 30 percent for light-duty utility vehicles. Additionally, the national governments are proposing to offer car makers additional incentives to sell low and zero emission vehicles.


While a broad alliance of states including the Netherlands and France called for a 40 percent reduction target in light of the latest climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prior to the breakthrough, Germany and several Eastern European states demanded a less ambitious decrease in automotive CO2 emissions of only 30 percent by 2030. Germany is home to the EU's largest domestic car manufacturing sector and has recently admitted that it will most likely fail to meet its own climate policy targets for a 40-percent CO2 emission reduction between 1990 and 2020.


Speaking to Xinhua on Wednesday, Manuela Matthess, an expert on International Energy and Climate Policy at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), argued that it was still possible to meet the IPCC's goal of limiting climate change to a 1.5-degree rise in average temperatures if governments acted swiftly. However, such measures would have to include "radical emissions reductions", as well as an exit from fossil fuels, an expansion of renewable energies and generally more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.


"We do not have much time left for these unprecedented, but necessary, processes of transformation because the Earth has already warmed by one degree Celsius and as we know with catastrophic consequences for many people," Matthess warned.


The FES expert lamented that the gap between this knowledge and concrete actions was "still quite large" in Germany and Europe. "Like most countries on this planet, the climate goals (of Germany and the EU) must definitely become more ambitious," Matthess said.


At the same time, Matthess expressed confidence that both the EU Commission and the German ministry for the environment were taking the latest IPCC report seriously and had realized the urgency of the situation. "As a part of the EU, Germany has a lot of potential to act as a global climate policy leader but then it must also implement a concrete and ambitious climate policy in all areas towards this end," she said.
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