By on October 11, 2018

With California and the Trump administration squabbling over vehicle emissions, it’s easy to assume that Europe’s green initiatives are progressing trouble free. In truth, things are a little more complicated. Europe has come together to endorse tougher emissions rules but one of its member states appears to be reaching its breaking point. Unsurprisingly, it’s the one that builds the most automobiles.

Earlier in the week, EU environment ministers announced a need for countries to decide on reduction targets for the foreseeable future. Germany has endorsed a proposed target for a 30-percent reduction by 2030, compared to 2021 levels. However, France and several other nations are pushing for a stricter 40-percent limit while Austria wants to see 35-percent reductions. Although, the most interesting thing about this is how closely Deutschland’s arguments for softer standards are to America’s. 

“Everyone is calling for action after the report from climate experts, and we now have a chance to find an agreement that is the most dynamic possible, the most ambitious possible,” said French Minister for the Environment, Francois de Rugy.

According to Reuters, the environment ministers finally agreed to aim for a 35-percent reduction after exhaustive talks on Tuesday night. The following day, Verband der Automobilindustrie (Germany’s auto industry alliance) issued a statement that alleged aiming too high would be detrimental to the automotive industry.

“With yesterday’s vote, the opportunity was missed to make the CO2 regulation for the period after 2021 economically and technically realistic,” VDA president Bernard Mattes said in German . “It is more than regrettable that the majority of member states have not found the strength to strike a balance between protecting the climate and securing jobs. Factors such as the market situation and customer acceptance of electromobility, declining sales of CO2-saving diesel models and the fact that many fuel economy technologies have already been exhausted are not sufficiently taken into account.”

The statement goes on to suggest that the EU should assume more of the financial burden of building EV charging networks if it expects customers to begin purchasing zero-emission vehicles. Over the last two years, the majority of Europe’s new charging points have been funded by the automotive industry, private businesses, or individual states hoping to upgrade their own infrastructure.

Last year, Volkswagen Group joined Ford, Daimler, and BMW to promise the installation of 400 fast-charging stations across Europe by 2020 as part of their IONITY joint venture. However, VW was unwilling to endorse a 40-percent emissions cut. “An industry can collapse faster than many believe,” Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday.

He claimed that a 40-percent reduction in car emissions by 2030 would result VW laying off one-quarter of its workforce. Diess said that would be about 100,000 factory jobs. While the 35-percent reduction would result in fewer positions lost, the CEO admitted that it “does not look much better” overall.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken a wait-and-see approach. She endorsed the deal, saying that automakers would at least know what to expect in the coming years, but noted that there was a revision clause that could save the auto industry from any catastrophic damage.

“[There is] a revisions clause for 2021, since the question of how fast we can cut carbon dioxide emissions depends on the extent of market penetration by electric cars or other cars with alternative propulsion systems,” she said. “Under these circumstances I think the agreement is wholly defensible.”

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