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Germany

German Politicians Unwilling to Get Behind Wheel of Green Cars

According to a study unveiled by German Environment Aid (DUH) in Berlin on Thursday, May 8, many of Germany's top politicians drive cars with twice the level of carbon emissions the European Commission recommends.

Sigmar Gabriel climbing out of a car

Sigmar Gabriel -- a fast-talker but not, apparently, a fast-driver

"Do as I say, and not as I drive," seems to be how most leading German politicians feel about environmental issues.

While they all pay lip service to battling climate change, urging the nation to separate their garbage, switch to green energy and cut back on air travel, few of them seem to be practicing what they preach.

Steering clear of clean cars

A handful might be driving home the need for better environmental awareness by using hybrid cars, but most of them are sticking with CO2-spewing monsters.

Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel -- in the news Thursday after telling the German parliament that loss of biodiversity is an economic threat much like climate change -- has at least made the switch from an Audi A8 TD1 to a Mercedes E 200 which runs on natural gas.

But regional environment ministers from Christian Democrat (CDU) Eckhard Uhlenberg in North Rhine-Westphalia to Volker Sklenar (CDU) in Thuringia and Hans-Heinrich Sander of the Free Democrats in Lower Saxony, are openly hypocritical in their choice of cars, favoring company vehicles that far exceed the EU Commission's recommended quotas.

Big, fast cars

They're not the only ministers with a penchant for gas guzzlers. Education Minister Annette Schavan drives a new car that actually emits 10 percent more carbon than her last vehicle.

But easily the worst offender is Dieter Althaus, State Premier of Thuringia. His BMW 750i with 367 horsepower emits an average 271 grams of carbon per kilometer.

Last year, the European Commission published proposals for a mandatory emissions limit on car manufacturers of 120 grams per kilometer from 2012.

Uncooperative politicians

"After one and a half years of intensive debate on the climate, world climate talks and numerous legislative initiatives to clamp down on climate killers, the insensitivity of many politicians in their choice of car is shocking," said Juergen Resch of the DUH, who also pointed out that many ministries refused to give his organization the data it requested for the study.

He told Spiegel Online that it was time politicians faced their responsibilities as role models.

"The ministers should be setting an example and showing consumers which cars they should start buying," he said. "Even US pop stars behave better in this respect than the majority of German ministers."

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