Dhe confusion about the German government’s position on the end of combustion engines continues even after the start of the crucial meeting of EU environment ministers. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) announced in the public debate between the ministers in Luxembourg that the federal government would agree to the end of combustion engines from 2035. However, she proposed an amendment that the European Commission should draw up a proposal on how “after 2035 vehicles could drive in accordance with EU law, but outside the fleet limits for cars and exclusively with CO2-neutral fuels”.
That would not change anything about the end of combustion engines for cars and light commercial vehicles in 2035. Manufacturers must continue to reduce emissions from their new cars by 100 percent. They are also not allowed to use synthetically produced, climate-neutral e-fuels for them. Only the electric motor and the fuel cell were allowed as drives. Lemke’s “intervention” corresponds to the position that she announced as a “government position” on the ZDF morning show the morning before the start of the ministerial meeting. In the conversation, she named ambulances, fire engines, shipping and air traffic as possible candidates for refueling with e-fuels after 2035.
It is difficult to imagine that Lemke made the proposed change without consulting the coalition. The Federal Environment Ministry had previously always emphasized that it did not want to act on its own authority. Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), who a week ago clearly opposed the end of combustion engines and thus triggered a coalition dispute, openly opposed Lemke again on Tuesday. “Today’s statements by the Environment Minister are surprising because they do not correspond to the current agreements,” he said. “Combustion engines with CO2-free fuels should also be possible as a technology in all vehicles after 2035.” The ministries led by the FDP have therefore not yet agreed to a voting behavior of the federal government.
Possible landing zone
In fact, with the German compromise initiative, a possible landing zone for an agreement in the EU Council of Ministers is emerging. In the end, he could decide that e-fuels can also be used within the system of fleet limits, at least to a limited extent, for example to refuel sports vehicles such as Ferrari or Porsche. This could make it easier for the FDP in Berlin to agree to the agreement. In addition, Italy could also be brought on board, which has so far also opposed the end of combustion engines because it fears for its car industry.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) indicated at the G7 meeting at Schloss Elmau that he could live with such a solution. The federal government wants to make it possible “that after 2035 cars can also be registered with CO2-neutral technologies with e-fuels,” he said. As was heard in Brussels, there were also preparatory talks with the Commission about this.
In addition to Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland are also blocking the combustion engine off. However, Hungary praised the proposal from Germany. The talks were initially interrupted after the morning. “There are still many outstanding issues in parts of the package before we can agree,” said French Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who is leading the negotiations for the French EU Council Presidency. After an agreement in the Council of Ministers, the states still have to agree agree on a common position with the European Parliament, which decided with a clear majority at the beginning of June to end the combustion engine by 2035 and rejected the greater importance of synthetic fuels.