Germany Backs Down in EU Emissions Fight

After delays, threat of legal action, and defense of the German auto industry, Berlin will accept the European Commission's demand for a cut in CO² emissions

Germany has backed down from a high-profile fight with Brussels over proposed cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment minister Sigmar Gabriel said Berlin would accept the European Commission's demands for a cut in carbon dixoide emissions between 2008 and 2011, according to German daily die Tageszeitung.

"Germany has another basis for its calculations but in the end we are only 2 percent apart," said the minister adding "We will accept this; to make clear also that we stand behind European emissions trading,"

The commission had asked Germany, as the biggest carbon dioxide producer in Europe, to reduce its emissions limit to 453 metric tonnes, far less than the 482 limit Berlin had originally proposed.

A compromise proposal was rejected by Brussels, leading Germany to threaten legal action.

But Berlin's foot-dragging over its emissions allowances, plus the Germans' strong defence of their car industry in the face of Brussels plans to make vehicles greener saw Germany get some bad press, and infuriated the commission.

Last week, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas blasted Berlin, which is currently also running the presidency of the EU, for not setting a good example on environment protection.

"Only once Germany puts all the nice speeches into practice will the others no longer be able to hide. If Germany blocks, the rest of Europe doesn't play along. And if Europe doesn't play along, neither does the rest of the world," said Mr Dimas.

Yesterday, however, Mr Gabriel acknowledged the importance of Europe's role.

"The Europeans are front-runners in climate protection and trying to get others on board, but great attention is being paid to how much the European role in climate protection is actually being carried through."

The emissions trading scheme, set up in early 2005, allows polluters to trade emission allowances with those polluting more able to buy from those producing less, creating a carbon market.

But flooding the market with carbon allowance as most member states have done has meant there has been little market to speak of and industry has had little financial incentive to cut back on polluting activities.

The emission trading scheme is part of the bloc's overall committment of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, a target it is struggling to reach.

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