Germany should embrace CO2 goal, not fight it: Dimas
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany should look at European Union plans to force down carbon dioxide emissions from cars not as "punishment" but rather a chance to improve their competitive position, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said.
Dimas urged German leaders on Sunday to rethink their opposition to the climate protection measure, telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper the proposed EU legislation would actually secure German car industry jobs in the long term.
Even though Chancellor Angela Merkel has made fighting climate change a centerpiece of her government, she has strongly opposed the Commission's proposal. Environmental groups have accused her of caving in to the powerful German car lobby.
"The Commission's plans to reduce CO2 emissions from cars are not a punishment but rather an opportunity for the German industry," Dimas said. "They will help protect the climate and raise the competitive position of German carmakers abroad."
The Commission wants a four-year phase-in period from 2012 for fines on manufacturers whose fleets exceed an average of 120 grams of the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.
But Merkel, despite her high-profile role in the fight against climate change, has criticized those plans, saying they unfairly punish German producers who make heavier cars. Germany is Europe's largest economy and largest emitter of CO2.
German producers of heavier luxury vehicles such as Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz could face billions of euros in fines.
(Writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Myra MacDonald)