* EU seeking to enforce goal of 95 g/km by 2020
* Germany's luxury carmakers struggling to meet targets
* Berlin pressuring member states to weaken rules -sources
* Most EU governments, lawmakers back robust legislation
By Barbara Lewis and Charlie Dunmore
BRUSSELS, June 18 Senior members of the German
government have warned EU member states that German automakers
could scale back or scrap production plans in their countries
unless they support weakened carbon emissions rules, according
to diplomatic sources.
With EU governments and lawmakers aiming to finalise the
rules next week, which most of the 27 member states back,
Germany has stepped up the pressure on them to water down limits
on vehicle emissions to protect the country's mighty car
industry, particularly luxury makers such as BMW and
The sources added that some calls warning EU member states
of possible consequences have come from members of Chancellor
Angela Merkel's office.
Her office declined to comment.
One EU diplomat said Berlin had reminded Lisbon of
Portugal's 78 billion euro ($100 billion) euro zone bailout,
which was heavily financed by Germany, in its bid to convince
the country to drop its opposition to softer limits.
"They have tried everything at the highest level to pressure
member states, in particular countries in the bailout club, to
support their proposals," said the diplomat, who spoke on
condition of anonymity.
"Germany seems hell-bent on pressing its interests. Even
countries that are generally pro-German feel that they are going
A German government source denied that Berlin had put
particular pressure on countries that have received EU financial
aid, and said its aim was to protect jobs in the EU auto sector.
"Our strategy is to focus on France, Britain and Italy as
the big car producing countries, and on the countries which have
important supply industries," the source said.
"They should all be together in this fight. We should not
drive jobs out of Europe at a moment of high unemployment."
Germany's position is backed by a handful of central
European countries with domestic auto production, but France,
Britain and Italy are opposed, EU sources say.
The proposal from the European Commission, the EU's
executive, would set a goal of 95 grams of carbon dioxide per
kilometre (g/km) as an average for all new vehicles sold in
Europe from 2020.
Each manufacturer is assigned an individual target to take
account of the nature of their fleet and their record of past
But making less-polluting cars is costly and restricts
profit margins, which is why major German manufacturers want to
delay the stricter rules.
The legal changes demanded by Berlin would allow luxury
makers to continue selling more powerful - and profitable -
models in Europe after 2020, when the new EU emission limits
will take effect.
Under the plan, carmakers would be allowed to carry over
credits to pollute that were accrued before the new rules kick
Known as supercredits, these permits are earned if
manufacturers make some very low emissions vehicles, such as
electric cars, which German firms are making to meet a separate
The problem is that if they manage to hold on to a glut of
supercredits, they can carry on making higher emissions models,
and emissions levels will fail to meet the 2020 95 g/km target.
An internal European Commission document, seen by Reuters,
on the latest German proposal says its plan "could result in a
net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, increased oil and fuel
use and reduced energy security".
Germany and its carmakers say the flexibility they want is
essential for spurring innovation, but critics say the changes
amount to major loopholes in the rules.
An EU source said the German proposal would delay
achievement of the 95 g/km target until 2023 for those carmakers
who made use of the accrued credits.
No-one from BMW was immediately available for comment. A
spokesman for Daimler denied the company had played any part in
any threats, direct or indirect, made to EU member states.
In the past, the car industry has exaggerated the difficulty
of EU targets, environmentalists say, and they need to innovate
to find ways to cut emissions to stay ahead of a global trend.
The United States has agreed fuel efficiency standards,
though they lag Europe, while China, where smog has stirred
social unrest, is increasingly aware of the implications of
vehicle emissions for air pollution.
In 2008, after dire predictions of factory closures and mass
job losses, the European Union agreed a limit of 130 g/km to be
phased in between 2012 and 2015.
Average emissions were already down to 132.2 g/km in 2012,
the EU's European Environment Agency said, meaning the target is
on course to be met early, prompting accusations that the
industry cried wolf in order to weaken the rules.
Germany as a whole is at the upper end of the EU emissions
range, with emissions of 147 g/km in 2011, according to the
non-profit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
At the lower end are nations including the Netherlands,
which has given tax breaks for fuel-efficient vehicles, and
Denmark, which has led a wider push for energy efficiency.
($1 = 0.7496 euros)
(Additional reporting by Laurence Frost in Paris, Andreas Rinke
and Andreas Cremer in Berlin and Christiaan Hetzner in
Frankfurt; Editing by Will Waterman)