Germany to back 30 percent CO2 cut for cars, vans in EU talks

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Germany’s environment ministry backed away on Wednesday from calls for more ambitious carbon dioxide emissions limits for cars and vans, supporting a 30 percent reduction target.

The ministry’s decision means Germany will put its weight behind the EU executive’s initial proposal in upcoming EU negotiations over the final targets for CO2 reductions on auto manufacturers’ fleets by 2030.

In a clash between concerns over the environmental risk of emissions and industry competitiveness, the European Parliament and member states are locked in a heated debate over what limits to impose on Europe’s powerful carmakers.

Explaining the decision, a ministry spokesman said holding out for more ambitious targets could result in an impasse, delaying the crucial climate legislation.

“That would be the worst scenario for the environment,” the spokesman told a news conference. “That is why we have decided not to block the Commission’s proposal as the basis of further proceedings.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday European carmakers would struggle to remain competitive if EU targets were set at more than 30 percent by 2030.

EU lawmakers earlier this month backed a tougher CO2 reduction target, calling for a cut of 45 percent by 2030.

Under a new credit system proposed in a bill to encourage carmakers to roll-out electric vehicles, lawmakers also backed targets for zero and low-emission vehicles to account for 20 percent of vehicle sales by 2025 and 40 percent by 2030.

In a new study on Wednesday, the EU’s executive branch said that while its proposed target of a 30 percent reduction would cut CO2 pollution from transport by 21-22 percent, a stricter target of 50 percent would only take the fall to 26-27 percent.

EU data also showed that higher targets for zero and low emission vehicles would cost more jobs in the automotive sector.

Lawmakers are set to vote on the bill in the European Parliament next week, while experts from the EU’s 28-nations are in talks to reach a common position.

The three EU lawmaking institutions will then hold talks over a final law.

Reporting by Michelle Martin and Riham Alkousaa; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis in Brussels; Editing by Mark Potter