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Olaf Scholz

Climate warning

EU was set to ban internal combustion engine cars. Then Germany suddenly changed its mind

It was a huge win for the environment when EU lawmakers decided to outlaw the sale of new automobiles powered by internal combustion engines by 2035. The law was passed by the European Parliament in February. A simple approval from the bloc's political leaders was all that was required.
But then Germany reversed course.
German officials have reversed course, surprising many EU insiders, and are now lobbying for a loophole that would enable the sale of combustion engine automobiles until the 2035 deadline, so long as they operate on synthetic fuels.
This one case could compromise the environmental credibility of the European Union as a whole. The group has a statutory deadline of 2050 to achieve carbon neutrality. A major component of EU climate policy is the elimination of polluting vehicles, such as cars and vans, which are responsible for roughly 15% of the bloc's total greenhouse gas emissions.
The ban on internal combustion engine cars is intended to be one of the centerpieces of the European Union’s ambitious plan to cut its emissions to net zero by 2050 — which means removing from the air at least as much planet-heating pollution as the bloc emits.
The law envisions a total ban on the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars by 2035. The European Union argues that the deadline is necessary because the average car’s lifespan is around 15 years — so to get a fleet that produces no carbon pollution by 2050, sales of combustion engine cars must end by 2035.
But earlier this month, just before the final vote, Germany pushed back on the idea that all internal combustion engines must be banned. Instead, it argued for engines powered by “green” fuels to be allowed.
Other European countries, including Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, joined Germany in demanding the exception and after intense negotiations, the EU’s Climate Chief Frans Timmermans announced on Saturday that “an agreement with Germany on the future use of e-fuels in cars” had been reached.
While the text of the law remains unchanged, Germany says it now has the assurances it was seeking from the EU on e-fuels.
“Vehicles with combustion engines can still be newly registered after 2035 if they use only CO2-neutral fuels,” German transport minister Volker Wissing said on Twitter.
Timmermans said the EU will work now on drafting specific rules to implement the agreement.
Many EU policy makers were flabbergasted by the demands from Germany and others. The legislation had been in the works for more than two years and had required many rounds of negotiations.


“I was the lead negotiator with the [European] Council on the final text, it was adopted there by the ambassadors of the different member states,” said Huitema. “You have an agreement and now, all of a sudden, a couple of member states want to refrain from the agreement. That is not how you negotiate and how you make deals with each other.”
Climate groups say the changes water down action on climate change.
Transport & Environment, a clean transport campaign group, said the loophole for e-fuels would slow down the transition to electric vehicles.
“[Germany’s] plan would derail the decarbonization of the new fleet while allowing more conventional oil to be used in the existing fleet post-2035 — a win-win for Big Oil.”
Even some carmakers came out against the potential changes to the law.
A group of dozens of companies including Volvo and Ford penned an open letter to the European Union, pushing against the exception.
“First-mover companies have already significantly invested in zero-emission vehicles and should be rewarded for taking the inherent risks to decarbonize their fleet. It would be a very negative signal to reverse the political agreement reached last year,” they said.


Do you agree?

13 more agrees trigger contact with the recipient

  • Daniel Waweru

    61 w

    Why deviate such great moves?

    10
    • Elizabeth Gathigia

      61 w

      Why the change of mind? Something seems wrong somewhere

      6
      • Tabitha Kimani

        61 w

        Its hard to believe why Germany would backtrack.

        4
        • rosebellendiritu

          61 w

          Why suddenly change mind yet lawmakers approved?unmask the deniers

          7
        • Peter Kamau

          61 w

          I'm baffled and lost for words. Whatever ulterior motives are plying here, Germany's leadership should know that this is really sickening and they should rethink critically for the planets sake.

          15
          • Gorffly mokua

            61 w

            This is annoying! How can they change their minds even after EU lawmakers voting for it! I believe some strong force is behind this!

            15
            • rosebellendiritu

              61 w

              @gorffly_mokua Something fishy happened maybe

              3
              • Jane Wangui

                61 w

                @gorffly_mokua feels like we are taking one step forward and two steps backwards.

                3
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