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Setting the Environmental Example

DW staff (sms)February 4, 2007

The EU's Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has urged Germany to take the lead in curbing global warming, saying Berlin must be aware of its responsibility as a role model.

If Germany doesn't push for climate change, no one will, Dimas saidImage: AP

Dimas told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that Germany must "be aware of its responsibility and its position as a role model in the fight against climate change."

Germany, which currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, has said the environment is one of its priorities.

Yet it opposes a number of recent proposals by the European to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, including plans to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars and impose an emissions quota for 2008-2012.

"If Germany drags its feet, the rest of Europe will do the same," Dimas said. "And if Europe doesn't take part, then the world won't either. In that case, we might as well all pack our bags."

Nations "hide" behind German inaction

EU-Abgasverordnung bringt deutsche Autobauer in Bedrängnis
An auto industry official said carmakers would invest billions in cutting greenhouse gassesImage: AP

The commissioner said other European nations, such as Britain and Sweden, were close to achieving their targets for curbing emissions of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Yet "others hide behind Germany's example."

EU proposals to reduce CO2 emissions to an average 120 grams per kilometer are not popular in Germany, where many of the automobile industry's best selling luxury cars are among the worst polluters.

Auto industry on board

But Bernd Gottschalk, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, said his organization was interested in investing billions into ways to reduce green house gasses.

Klimawandel, Globale Erwärmung
A UN report this week said much of climate change is man madeImage: AP

"The German automobile industry will significantly and constructively contribute to the process and do it by investing billions," he wrote in Saturday's Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper.

Slowing down the autobahn?

In a separate interview in the Bild am Sonntag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said she was opposed to a general speed limit being imposed on Germany's highways.

"I don't think the question of a general speed limit arises," she said. "Lots of highways have limits and lane controls. These contribute to the fight against global warming."

The idea of imposing speed limits has been raised recently by the German environment agency, which called for a renewed debate on speed limits on Germany's autobahns. Though some have restrictions, many have no top speed limit. Cutting car speed would reduce emissions.

On Friday, Dimas called for fresh international talks on a comprehensive new global agreement on tackling climate change, following the publication of a stark report on global warming from United Nations scientists.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- the UN's paramount authority on global warming -- said fossil fuel pollution would raise temperatures this century, worsen floods, droughts and hurricanes, melt polar ice and damage the climate system for a thousand years to come.