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Car emission plan hits skids

October 14, 2013

Germany has been accused of slowing the European Union's efforts to limit vehicle emissions. Fresh talks on when new rules would be introduced faltered, with Germany wary of harming its car industry.

An employee of the Daimler AG assembles a front door in a car of the Mercedes-Benz E-class on the production line in the Mercedes-Benz site in Sindelfingen, Germany. Photo: AP
Image: dapd

European Union environment ministers met in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss the implementation of new rules governing vehicle emissions.

In June, governments and the European Parliament had agreed to force carmakers to limit the average carbon dioxide emissions of new cars to 95 grams per kilometer by 2020. A limit of 135 grams per kilometer, agreed in 2009, is scheduled to take full effect in 2015. As some ministers sought stricter targets for 2020, Germany was blamed for pushing to delay the new plan until 2024.

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard raised concerns at the latest road block to a solution. She said an agreement must be made “within weeks” if the current European Parliament can approve the changes before its term expires in May.

"This cannot be a never-ending story ... There was a very clear understanding that this has to be a very swift thing," Hedegaard said. "The room for maneuvering is quite limited."

Hedegaard was one of many critics of Germany's delay tactics. Sweden's Environment Minister Lena Ek called the move "dangerous." Greg Archer, the spokesman for campaign group Transport and Environment, spoke of "dirty deals."

Sharing the blame

Germany has some support, however, with Lithuanian Environmental Minister Valentinas Mazuronis - also chairman of Monday's talks - moving to deflect criticism leveled at Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He told journalists no one country "could be blamed or suspected of anything."

Prior to the talks, Germany's Environment Minister Peter Altmaier defended his nation's stance to journalists and pointed to its "cutting edge" environmental protection policies.

"But as environment minister, I'm also saying that we have to take care not to lose jobs to countries that pursue less climate protection," he added.

Altmaier had also expressed confidence a compromise could be reached within weeks.

ph/msh (AP, dpa)