German car plans would breach EU carbon goal- Commission paper

Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:22am EST

* Limited number of 'supercredits' spur innovation

* Too many would mean conventional cars do not get cleaner

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Germany's tactics to safeguard its output of big, luxury cars threaten a planned target for European Union limits on vehicle carbon emissions by 2020 and could also jeopardise any future ambitions, a document from the bloc's executive said.

Proposals from the German government and German Christian Democrat politician Thomas Ulmer undermine attempts to enforce a 95 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) emission ceiling on cars by 2020, according to the Commission document seen by Reuters on Monday.

EU politicians are divided between those keen for rigorous green standards and those seeking flexibility.

The German car industry and Ulmer, who is leading debate on the car law continuing in the European Parliament this week, have been at the forefront of demands for increased allocation of so-called supercredits.

These allow manufacturers to produce cars that exceed the EU target if they also make very low emission electric or hybrid vehicles.

The Commission says a certain number of supercredits (a maximum of 20,000 per manufacturer) could support innovation, but too many would be counterproductive because that could prevent conventional cars from becoming any less polluting.

The internal Commission document, seen by Reuters, looked at four scenarios based on the German proposals - which would set no limit on supercredits - and found they would mean emissions in a range of 99 g/km to 123 g/km - compared with the EU goal of 95 g/km on average across all new EU vehicles by 2020.

As a result, it said, they would lead to "substantial increases in CO2 emissions and oil use" as well as "significant increases in consumer fuel costs and resulting decreases in GDP".

KNOCK-ON EFFECTS

There would also be knock-on effects. Because the supercredits would delay achievement of the 95 gram target, the German proposals would "have implications for the ability to set further CO2 targets".

Germany dominates the premium car segment, with manufacturers including BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

By contrast, proposals by British Liberal Member of the European Parliament Fiona Hall and Spanish Socialist MEP Eider Gardiazabal give an incentive for very low emissions vehicles, but have only "a limited impact on the effective CO2 target".

As a result, "their impact on consumer fuel costs and GDP is also rather limited," the Commission paper said.

The scenarios give a range of deviation from the Commission target, depending on how many supercredits are earned through the production of ultra-low emission vehicles.

Greg Archer, a programme manager at campaign group Transport & Environment, predicted 10-15 g/km in excess of the 95 gram goal was likely, given ambitious German targets for electric vehicles.

"The effect will be fewer jobs created, higher fuel bills for drivers and more CO2 released," he said. "Yes, we want to encourage electric vehicles, but we don't want to encourage electric vehicles if that means conventional cars don't get any cleaner."

The Commission declines to comment on unpublished documents.

None of the Members of the European Parliament involved was immediately available for comment. (Editing by Anthony Barker)

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