Bowing to German pressure, a meeting of EU environment ministers was forced once again to postpone hammering out the details of a planned Europe-wide cap on new vehicle emissions from 2020.
The proposed regulation intends to address fears over the effects of increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by forcing car makers to limit their vehicles' emissions to 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre from 2020.
In spite of its strong environmentalist lobby, Germany, home of automobile giants Daimler, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, is concerned about the threat the new rules would pose to its car industry.
Tending towards larger, heavier cars with big engines, German car makers fear they would be put at a distinct disadvantage after 2020 if forced to keep within the proposed limit.
Head of German luxury car maker Daimler Dieter Zetsche has warned against tightening the rules, saying that in 2020 could see the line being crossed between “correct and necessary demands on industry and excessive demands.“
In negotiations, Germany's Environment Minister Peter Altmaier has pushed for “flexibility” and in September proposed putting off bringing in the 95 gram limit until 2024. Several member states, including the UK, Poland and Romania have shown sympathy for German position.
All EU member states – including Germany – committed themselves back in 2008 to reducing vehicle emissions, but this has not yet been set down in EU law.
Yet now Germany is dragging its feet. This summer, it succeeded in temporarily removing the regulation from the agenda, effectively postponing a debate on the exact details.
After Monday's further delay, member states now have four weeks to come to an agreement if the new rules are to be passed before next year's European elections.
Meanwhile, environmentalist NGO Greenpeace has expressed outrage at Germany's delaying tactics and suggestions to water down the target.
“The European Parliament should stay strong and dismiss Germany's demands, which only serve to damage the environment, push up costs for consumers and suffocate technological innovation,” said Greenpeace in a statement.
The EU spat could also damage relations between Germany's Green party and Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU, which were due to meet on Tuesday to continue discussions about forming a government.