Sep 10 2008

Merkel’s 15% argument

Published by at 2:36 pm under Europe,Opinion

First published on my old blog on 2/2/2007. 

The siding of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government this week with the German car manufacturers against an EU commission trying to force EU car manufacturers to produce “cleaner cars” (more environment friendly) was disappointing, to put it mildly. 

Because I always thought Frau Merkel was the exception to the typical-politician rule, in the sense that she kept her eye on the longterm and avoided decisions of the shortterm-good-longterm-bad variety. And because I thought she was a clear thinker. 

But, her decision to side with the car manufacturers against the EU and cleaner cars, is a bad one. Not only does it sacrifice the longterm for the good of the shortterm, but it underestimates the extent of “uneasiness” of “the people” about climate change, underestimates the speed with which this “uneasiness” is building and reeks of “muddled thinking”. 

Chances are Frau Merkel, her government and the car manufacturers in Germany will be rudely shaken out of their “Cinderella sleep” in the near future. The effects and results of climate change may well be the catalyst. 

So, clever one, what is this “muddled thinking” thing you are throwing against Angela’s head? 

Simply this: At Davos and again more recently, she was on German TV saying “the EU can’t save the world from climate change on its own….the rest of the world also had a responsibility…and a part to play….and in any case, the EU is only responsible for 15% of global CO2 emissions (a big co-reason for global warming)…so, even if the EU got it’s “environmental house” in order it would not “save the situation” (this was in broad terms what she said). 

Nein. The 15% is wrong. Because it’s wrong to only look at what is emitted inside the borders of the EU. Especially, if your car sector has been world-leaders for decades and “export world champion of cars” for years. 

In this circumstances Germany (and the German government) has a special responsibility to ensure they don’t export “environmental time-bombs” (which their Porsches and most of their other bigger cars are…), because this really means they are “exporting environmental problems” around the world. 

In the circumstances I would have expected Frau Merkel to take a VERY tough stance against her car manufacturers, saying they should stop lagging the world’s car manufacturers when it comes to producing cleaner cars and stop dragging their feet when it comes to working on alternative engines. 

The EU commission’s proposed deadline for tightening the CO2 emission ceilings is 2012 – a full 5 years from now. This is a very realistic and easy target for the German car manufacturers to reach. Or should be, if they wanted to…

But, it’s not really up to them to decide whether they want to, or not. Rather: If the German car companies don’t come to the market with a (genuine) “clean alternative” before 2009, they will be boo-ed off the stage by “the people” (who are ready for clean cars) after that point and they will lose the race against some other “Amazon.com-like” “sluiper-in-die-nag” who’ll lead the world with its next generation car. 

In this sense, the point of Frau Merkel about “thousands of jobs which will be endangered if the EU plan goes through” is really completely off the mark. 

If the German car companies don’t pull up their socks, thousands of jobs will be lost, Frau Merkel. 

It’s about what the German car companies are NOT doing, not about what the EU commission wants to do. 

Beware, you’re siding with the “Täters”, Frau Merkel.

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