June 9, 2018 / 11:13 AM / a year ago

German ministers clash over stricter car emission targets

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s transport minister has sharply criticized the country’s environment minister for planning tougher emissions rules for cars in the European Union, as the government struggles to find a way to cut pollution while protecting jobs.

FILE PHOTO: Andreas Scheuer of the Christian Social Union (CSU) arrives for coalition talks about forming a new coalition government at the CDU headquarters in Berlin, Germany, February 3, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

“We don’t need arbitrary, political-ideological emission limits ..., but realistic, technically feasible limits,” Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer told Der Spiegel magazine, adding: “I do not participate in the destruction of a leading European industry!”

Germany’s Environment Ministry has drawn up a position paper suggesting CO2 emissions from cars and light commercial vehicles should be halved by 2030 compared with 2021 levels, documents seen by Reuters showed on Wednesday.

That compares with proposals from the European Commission for a 30 percent reduction. German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze also wants a 25 percent reduction by 2025 compared with a 15 percent decline envisaged by the European Commission.

Earlier this week, Schulze said German carmakers had a moral obligation to refit heavily polluting diesel vehicles on the country’s roads, but she also conceded that the government had no legal means to make them do so.

In an interview published in Die Welt newspaper on Monday, Schulze said refits could first be carried out on cars on the road in particularly polluted cities. By targeting areas most affected, the costs of such refits need only be “in the low single-digit billions”, she said.

Revelations in the wake of Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) emissions scandal that nitrogen oxide emissions of diesel cars are much higher than previously thought have led to tougher regulations, and in some cases fines, on carmakers.

Diesel emissions have also led to several German cities exceeding European Union air pollution limits, which has triggered enforcement action by the European Commission.

Some diesel vehicle owners are also seeking compensation from Volkswagen, which admitted in 2015 to cheating U.S. emissions tests.

In a response to a parliamentary question from a Green Party lawmaker, deputy justice minister Rita Hagl-Kehl said the government had “no insight” into how many diesel car customers may have outstanding claims, business daily Handelsblatt will report on Monday, according to an advance release.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Additional reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Mark Potter

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