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German minister says ‘on right track’ to solving CO2-emitting car row

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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By Kate Abnett and Andreas Rinke

BERLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Germany’s transport minister is hopeful of a solution to a row with the European Union over the bloc’s law to end sales of new CO2-emitting cars in 2035, he said on Monday.

After months of negotiations, the European Parliament, the Commission and EU member states last year agreed to a law requiring all new cars sold in the EU from 2035 to have zero CO2 emissions – effectively making it impossible to sell combustion engine cars from that date.

But in recent weeks, German support has wavered, forcing Brussels to delay a final vote scheduled for this week to approve the law. That vote should have been a formality at this stage of the legislative process, and an attempt to rewrite an EU policy this late is highly unusual.

“We are on the right track,” said Volker Wissing on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting at Meseberg, near Berlin.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attended the meeting on Sunday, where she and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said they were in “constructive talks”, without giving detail.

The transport minister said on Monday he agreed with von der Leyen that the EU’s climate goals had to be met, and the issue was how to integrate openness to technology into the law.

Wissing wants the use of synthetic fuels to remain possible after the 2035 deadline – providing a potential lifeline to combustion engine cars – and has said the Commission’s promised proposal on how to make this happen is missing.

The EU law says the Commission will make a proposal on how vehicles running on CO2-neutral fuels can be sold after 2035, if this complies with climate goals.

Pascal Canfin, chair of the European Parliament’s environment committee, said he had not been asked to reopen negotiations on the law.

He said doing this would risk other carefully negotiated deals on climate policies being torn apart at the last minute.

“That would kill the Green Deal. So no, no way,” Canfin said, referring to the EU’s climate goals.

Transport accounts for nearly a quarter of EU emissions and has bucked the bloc’s overall trend of falling CO2 output in recent decades.

The EU has not yet rescheduled the vote. The European Commission and Sweden, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, are in talks with countries to seek agreement.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Kate Abnett; writing by Miranda Murray; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)