* Merkel, German carmakers chide EU over green regulations
* One-third of German R&D spending comes from auto industry
* Study: Failure to cut CO2 emissions threatens economy
By Christiaan Hetzner
FRANKFURT, Sept 12 German Chancellor Angela
Merkel, facing elections in less than two weeks, warned the
European Union on Thursday against imposing tough environmental
targets on German luxury carmakers, saying they could harm
innovation and economic growth.
Merkel, tipped to win a third term as chancellor in a Sept.
22 poll, blocked a deal in June that would have set Europe's car
industry an ambitious target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
"Europe must learn that we are not an isolated continent but
that we must succeed in global competition," she told a packed
congress hall at the Frankfurt auto show.
"We need to look beyond our borders - push for open and free
trade, but at the same time not impose greater burdens on our
industry than other continents do with their own industry."
Thanking Merkel for her support, the head of Germany's VDA
auto industry association which includes luxury brands BMW
, Mercedes-Benz and Audi,
criticised EU officials for increasing the burden of regulation.
"Lawyers and bureaucrats have to listen to the engineers
with their technical know-how. The automotive industry will not
make a good political pawn to be tossed between officials' desks
in Brussels," Matthias Wissmann said.
However, a new German scientific study published on Thursday
said the real threat to global economic growth came from
continued delays in tackling climate change.
If the stalemate on international climate policy continued
until 2030, it could cut up to 7 percent off growth worldwide
within the first decade after the policies took effect, said the
study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
This is because cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would have
to be even deeper and so more costly in due course to keep
rising temperatures below an agreed U.N. ceiling of 2 degrees
Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times, it said.
But if an agreement were to be achieved by 2015, as planned,
global economic growth would only be 2 percent lower in the
decade after the policies were implemented, the study said.
Diplomats have suggested Germany wants to delay the new EU
deal on stricter CO2 emission rules for new cars until after
this month's election. Other sources in Brussels have said
Germany wants to overturn the deal, not just delay it.
Merkel said car industry innovation showed up in the luxury
market before trickling down to smaller cars.
The auto industry contributes a third of all German domestic
spending on research and development and lifts the country's R&D
spending towards Merkel's target of 3 percent of economic
output, though that still lags the 4 percent of South Korea.
South Korea's Hyundai and Kia have
become two of the fastest-growing brands in Europe, causing
trouble especially for Volkswagen and General Motors' Opel
Merkel praised Germany's carmakers for combining classical
engineering strengths with the current trend towards a digital
world to create the connected car - a vehicle that can
communicate with its environment and other cars to reduce
accidents, lower carbon emissions and boost productivity.
"This is a chance for Germany to catch up in those areas of
digitalisation where we don't play a leading role," she said.
Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand aims to bring a self-driving
car onto the market by 2020.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, who sat next to Merkel at
Thursday's official opening ceremony for the car show, has a
particularly long way to go to meet the proposed EU targets.
Mercedes would have to reduce its fleet carbon emissions by
30 percent to 99 grams of CO2 per km by 2020 from last year's
140 g/km, forcing the company to invest billions of euros in
reducing the carbon footprint of its large, heavy luxury sedans.
At the show, the brand debuted a plug-in hybrid version of
its S-Class flagship limousine, which can drive some 30
kilometres on electricity alone. This allows it to emit just 69
g/km, compared to the roughly 240 g/km emitted by the
high-performance AMG version with its 5.5 litre V8 engine.
"To be very clear, we will meet the target," Daimler
development chief Thomas Weber told Reuters.