February 21. 2024. 8:26

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Germany to abstain on combustion engine ban without e-fuel proposal

Germany will abstain in the final vote on the EU’s de-facto ban on new petrol or diesel cars as of 2035 unless the EU Commission proposes how new combustion engine cars can be registered even after that date if they run exclusively on e-fuels.

This puts into question the adoption of the deal which was struck between EU institutions in October 2022.

The agreement would reduce allowed tailpipe emissions of new cars to zero by 2035, which would de-facto ban the registration of new cars with internal combustion engines.

Germany will only agree to the agreement if the Commission makes a proposal on how vehicles with internal combustion engines running only on e-fuels can be registered even after 2035, German transport minister Volker Wissing (FDP/Renew Europe) told journalists on Tuesday (28 February).

“The European Commission must deliver, to enable a registration of combustion engine vehicles even after 2035”, he said. “We need all options,” including battery-electric, hydrogen and combustion engines running on e-fuels, he added.

Wissing also said that he “made [EU climate chief Frans] Timmermans an offer for a conversation, which he didn’t accept”. He also said that this should not come as a surprise to the European Commission, as Germany has been pressing for such an exemption for months.

The file is meant to be voted on by EU countries’ education ministers on 7 March, so far considered as a so-called “A” item – one that is meant to pass without any further discussion or negotiation.

Asked what he expects from the European Commission before the scheduled vote so that Germany could vote in favour, Wissing said that “we need a binding answer to the question of how to deal with internal combustion engines”.

“As soon as this answer is available, we will stand by the compromise,” he said.

Germany’s approval of the deal was so far called “final” by the country’s environment ministry, as Wissing’s FDP party was able to negotiate a non-binding recital clause into the text, which would ask the Commission to re-evaluate the option to register some combustion engine vehicles even after 2035 if they run exclusively on e-fuels.

Without the German “yes”, the adoption of the file is on the brink, according to German Green MEP Michael Bloss, as “Poland and Bulgaria do not want the End of the Combustion Engine, and Italy also wants to abstain”.

“A qualified majority would thus be prevented, and the combustion engine phase-out rejected,” Bloss tweeted.

To adopt the file, a qualified majority is needed in the Council, representing 55% of member states (i.e. at least 15) and 65% of the EU population.

If not adopted in the first reading, the Council can make changes to the legislative proposal and send the file back to the European Parliament, as per the EU’s ordinary legislative procedure. However, this is highly unusual, as most files are nowadays agreed upon in informal trilogue negotiations and then endorsed by EU legislators without any changes.

Green group Transport & Environment was highly critical of Wissing’s statement.

“Wissing’s threat to overturn the internal combustion engine phase-out at the last second shows that the FDP is prepared to endanger Germany as an automotive location for party-political motives,” Bastian Bock, the group’s Germany chief, said in a statement.

“The industry needs planning security now and not power politics games by a transport minister in search of profiling,” he added.