IA solution is emerging in the dispute over the future of the combustion engine. The French EU Council Presidency presented a compromise proposal at the meeting of EU environment ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday evening that would allow manufacturers to continue selling new cars with classic combustion engines after 2035. The prerequisite for this is that these cars are operated with demonstrably CO2-neutral synthetic fuels made from green electricity. The European Commission is to be commissioned to draw up proposals on how this can be implemented in practice. However, this should only apply to the existing vehicle fleet. Manufacturers would therefore no longer be able to launch any new models with combustion engines after 2035, even if they were to be fueled with e-fuels.
With this proposal, France wants to achieve a breakthrough in the negotiations on future CO2 fleet limits for new cars on Tuesday evening. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) reacted positively to the compromise proposal in the first discussion between the ministers. Diplomats said an agreement was within reach. The proposal falls far short of what Lemke himself proposed at the start of the ministerial meeting. She only wanted to propose the use of climate-neutral synthetic fuels after 2035 for very specific vehicles such as ambulances, but expressly not for normal cars and light commercial vehicles. Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) immediately rejected this and demanded that there should also be a regulation for cars.
The FDP, which only opposed the 2035 combustion engine ban after Pentecost and thus triggered a coalition crisis, can apparently live with the compromise proposal now presented by the French. Even before its official presentation in Luxembourg, a spokesman for the federal government announced – without giving details – that the federal government supported a compromise that was emerging in Luxembourg. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) welcomed the agreement in the evening. The ban on the internal combustion engine is “off the table”. This clears the way for approval in the EU Council of Ministers. According to Wissing, the government has agreed that vehicles with combustion engines should also be re-registered after 2035 if they can be proven to be operated only with e-fuels. This corresponds to the compromise proposed by the French.
With Germany’s approval, the way is clear
In principle, the goal proposed by the European Commission last July as part of its “Fit for 55” climate package would remain the same: to reduce the CO2 emissions of new cars by 100 percent by 2035. After 2035, it would only have allowed the sale of new cars with electric motors or fuel cells. The extent to which combustion engines can actually be driven with e-fuels depends on whether and what kind of proposal the Commission makes.
Being able to drive cars with climate-neutral e-fuels has always been the concern of the FDP and corresponds to what is laid out in the coalition agreement, said Wissing. “The fact that there were different interpretations of this was a problem. But we solved this today.” The politician emphasized: “We want to achieve climate neutrality without any technology bias and not exclude technologies at an early stage whose importance cannot yet be conclusively assessed in the future.”
With Germany’s approval, the way for an agreement on the new climate targets for cars is in principle clear. Italy, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, which had opposed the Commission proposal, pushed for further concessions, supported by Greece and with restrictions by Croatia, in order to weaken the ban on combustion engines. The final agreement also depends on how environment ministers progress in negotiations on other important elements of the “Fit for 55” climate package.
The French EU Council Presidency also wants to reach an agreement on the reform and expansion of emissions trading at the meeting of environment ministers in Luxembourg. An agreement on this was not in sight early Tuesday evening. According to the will of the French, the various climate laws should be passed as a package.