A coalition of EU states led by Germany prevented approval of the measure at a meeting of diplomats in Brussels earlier this week. Merkel said that she moved to delay the proposal -- which would cap average carbon discharges by passenger vehicles in the bloc at 95 grams a kilometer in 2020 -- to defend jobs.
“This is also about employment,” Merkel told reporters in Brussels today after a European Union summit. “That’s why we need time to review and evaluate and decide what we will do. That’s why the vote didn’t happen.”
Merkel’s intervention, made less than three months before federal elections, collided with EU efforts to cap pollution by cars through varying targets for individual manufacturers ranging from Volkswagen AG (VOW) to General Motors Co. (GM) Current EU legislation requires carmakers to cut discharges to 130 grams a kilometer on average in 2015 and sets a non-binding goal of 95 grams for 2020.
“With such an important policy decision, it’s important that prudence trumps speed,” German auto-industry lobby VDA said in a statement. “Therefore, it’s correct that sufficient time to review compromise suggestions are allowed.”
Ireland, representing the EU governments, and negotiators from the European Parliament reached a preliminary deal on the draft emissions law on June 24. The proposal needs qualified-majority support from national governments. That failed to materialize at a two-day meeting of EU leaders billed as a jobs summit that ended today.
While the European Commission, the EU’s regulatory arm, said earlier today that it was disappointed about the delay, Merkel rebuffed any such criticism on economic grounds.
“At a time when we’re spending days sitting here talking about employment, we have to take care that, notwithstanding the need to make progress on environmental protection, we don’t weaken our own industrial base,” Merkel said.
It now falls to Lithuania, which takes over the bloc’s rotating presidency from Ireland next week, to propose a new date for a decision on the matter.
Ford Motor Co. (F), which has developed clean-running engines like the 1.0-liter EcoBoost Motor, said it was “disappointed” that a minority of member states was able “to delay a well-balanced agreement,” the company said in a e-mailed statement. “We will now have to re-group within the industry to determine the next steps.”
The deal made between Ireland and the Parliament includes the continued use of so-called supercredits, or incentives, to encourage car producers to develop clean technologies.
The supercredits need to be applied in a “more meaningful way,” according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. Greenpeace said in an e-mail that any further weakening of the proposal would be “pure greed” and the cost would be borne by European drivers.