German automakers urge Europe to rethink climate policies

Source: Camille von Kaenel, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, June 5, 2017

A German automaker association is urging Europe to reconsider its climate policies following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

Matthias Wissmann, president of the German auto industry lobby group VDA, said in a statement today that he worries the German car industry will lose its competitive edge.

“The regrettable announcement by the USA makes it inevitable that Europe must facilitate a cost efficient and economically feasible climate policy to remain internationally competitive,” he said in a statement roughly translated from German. The group represents Volkswagen AG, Audi AG and Daimler AG, among others.

He called Trump’s decision a “disappointment” but said it wasn’t a “surprise.”

The decision on the Paris Agreement will have little direct impact on the auto industry, analysts say (Climatewire, June 2).

The Trump administration is reconsidering the Obama administration’s 2020 to 2025 tailpipe requirements, among the most stringent in the world, in a separate move. Regardless of the final decision on the domestic standards, automakers must meet similar emissions standards in the European Union, in Japan and around the world, and are already largely on track to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling fuel efficiency by 2025.

The European Union is looking to reform its emissions testing program to make it more stringent in the wake of the Volkswagen cheating scandal. Wissmann has been a powerful voice for the German car industry, having long lobbied against significant increases in tailpipe requirements and against electric vehicle mandates.

“Maintaining our international competitiveness is the prerequisite for successful climate protection,” he said today. “Unfortunately, this connection is too often underestimated.”

Wissmann added that the changing commitments to climate change regulations by the United States make it difficult for automakers, which must plan production on a global scale.

“The decision of the U.S. president also worries us because we fear an asymmetric climate protection policy of two speeds in the U.S. — one at the federal level, another at the level of several federal states. This makes planning and legal security more difficult for the automotive industry,” he said in the statement.

U.S. domestic car companies General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. quickly responded to Trump’s announcement yesterday by saying the decision did not change their plans to reduce carbon emissions. Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, who serves on Trump’s business policy council, said she will remain an adviser. Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk resigned from the policy council in protest.