21 Feb 2018, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Car club calls for diesel retrofits / Germans split over diesel bans

General German Automobile Club (ADAC)

The General German Automobile Club (ADAC) says it has proof that the mechanical retrofitting of older diesel cars in order to cut air pollution “is not only possible but also highly effective.” The influential car club says that tests carried out by its regional branch in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg have shown that the emissions of diesel cars that meet the previous Euro 5 emissions standard can be reduced by 70 to 90 percent if the vehicles’ hardware is adjusted appropriately. This in turn could reduce pollution in heavily affected cities like Stuttgart by up to 25 percent. The club, which is traditionally associated with the car industry, says it gives “clear priority to protecting the health” of citizens, and calls the mechanical retrofitting of diesel cars “indispensable” for avoiding general driving bans that could result from a ruling, which a German administrative court is scheduled to deliver tomorrow (22 February). “The costs of retrofitting, ranging between 1,400 and 3,300 euros per car, must not be paid by the customers,” the ADAC cautions, adding that financial support by the state should be considered as an option. “In any case, consumer confidence could be strengthened if carmakers make a significant contribution to the costs,” the club says.

Read the press release in German here.

Find background on the diesel technology’s role for clean air and climate in the CLEW article Why the German diesel summit matters for climate and energy.

Focus Online

Less than half of German citizens would approve of driving bans for extremely polluting diesel cars, Focus Online reports. In a representative survey conducted by pollster YouGov ahead of a crucial ruling by a Germany administrative court that could result in driving bans for older diesel cars in inner cities, 43 percent of respondents said they were in favour of such a ban, while about the same proportion of respondents regarded bans to be “bad or very bad” in certain urban areas. A clear majority (70 percent) said they were disappointed by the way carmakers deal with the issue, and that the companies did not do enough to comply with environmental regulations. Most respondents also said they had little confidence that German carmakers will manage to come up with less polluting cars in the near future. Less than a third of respondents said they were very concerned that nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution from diesel fumes could damage their health.

See CLEW’s dieselgate timeline, and the CLEW article German cities might test free public transport to cut pollution for background.

Automotive News Europe

US carmaker Tesla has outstripped Germany’s premium carmakers in sales of luxury cars in Europe for the first time, Nick Gibbs writes in Automotive News Europe. “Tesla's Model S outsold the luxury flagships of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi,” Gibbs writes, adding that the Californian e-car manufacturer has already won over its German competitors on the US market before. "This is an alarm for the traditional automakers, such as Mercedes. It says a smaller but smarter brand, such as Tesla, can beat them at home," commented Felipe Munoz, an analyst with market researchers JATO Dynamics.

Read the article in English here.
See the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers for more information.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Influential members of parliament of Germany’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance, the Green Party, and the pro-business FDP have voiced their opposition to the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is meant to pump Russian gas to  Germany via the Baltic Sea. In a guest article published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the MPs say that the planned pipeline “drives a political wedge into the EU.” The cross-party alliance says that Germany’s next government “must show where its loyalties lie,” and demonstrate solidarity with Germany’s eastern neighbours, who are mostly opposed to the deal with Russia. The appeal is primarily directed at the Social Democrats (SPD), who have constantly backed and pushed the Nord Stream 2 project. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she does not want to interfere with the project, which she has called a private business endeavour.

Find the article in German here.

Süddeutsche Zeitung

The aim of Germany’s emerging coalition government to speed up the expansion of renewable energy sources could render the current scenarios for expanding the country’s power grid obsolete, Michael Bauchmüller writes in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The “scenario framework” for grid expansion by 2030 “is already outdated before the last amendments are submitted,” Bauchmüller argues. According to their coalition agreement, the would-be government partners - the conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the Social Democrats (SPD) - want to increase the share of renewables in Germany’s power consumption to 65 percent by 2030 instead of the previous goal of 50 percent, Bauchmüller writes. “Germany’s four major grid operators are bound to run into problems by this acceleration,” he says. The current plans for grid expansion stipulate that major wind power transmission lines connecting the north with industrial centres in the south should be finished by 2025. Transmission grid operator 50Hertz says the accelerated expansion means that the power lines should be built with a greater capacity right away, instead of starting a second round of construction after the first line is finished.

Read the article in German here.

Find background in CLEW interview with CDU energy politician Pfeiffer.

Environmental Action Germany (DUH) / Germanwatch / WWF

Germany's current power grid development plans for 2030 are not aligned with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, write the NGOs Environmental Action Germany (DUH), Germanwatch, and WWF in a joint press release. "Until now, none of the three planning scenarios is based on a development path that supposes an accelerated exit from coal, and – by 2050 – also from fossil oil and gas, as well as a 100 percent renewables-based power supply by 2050," they write. In the current plans, all three scenarios are still based on only an 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction goal by 2050, with which the emission limits for 2030 would be too high to enable Germany to reach the Paris targets.

Find the joint press release in German here, the DUH statement in German here, and the WWF statement in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier The energy transition and Germany's power grid.

German Wind Energy Association (BWE) / BDEW

The rise in prices in Germany’s latest onshore wind power auction is an “approximation to the real market value” of the technology, the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) says in a press release. Previous auctions were characterised by “massive distortions” as many of the submitted bids did not have to obtain a construction license beforehand, which led to unequal conditions for participants and an unjustified price drop. The latest auctions “put an end to these distortions,” the BWE says. Germany’s auction system is “still at the beginning of a learning curve,” the lobby organisation argues, calling for obtaining a license mandatory for all future auction participants. The BWE stresses that citizens’ energy projects, for which the special license regulations were made, still competed in the latest auction, showing that they did not need easier conditions to succeed.
In a separate press release, the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) also says that the higher prices for onshore wind are “realistic” as the distortions of competition have been removed. According to BDEW head Stefan Kapferer, the awarded projects will likely be implemented, which was not a given for citizens’ energy projects that had been successful in previous auctions.

Find the BWE press release in German here, and the BDEW press release in German here.

Find background in the CLEW factsheet High hopes and concerns over onshore wind power auctions.

dpa /

Germany’s acting Finance Minister Peter Altmaier said that green finance should receive support at EU level to stimulate the growth of a business model of the future, the news agency dpa reports in an article carried by Investments that produce sustainable financial returns could be supported in the same way as Germany supports resource efficiency and renewables, Altmaier said. “I explicitly support this idea,” the conservative politician and former German environment minister said. This type of investment could help the EU reach its climate targets and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Find the article in German here.

See the CLEW article Private climate finance under scrutiny on eve of Paris summit for more information.

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) / nature communications

Sea level rise is a major consequence of climate change that will continue long after emissions of greenhouse gases have stopped, and today’s mitigation action is important to limit long-term risks, according to a study conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and published in nature communications. “Every delay in peaking emissions by five years between 2020 and 2035 could mean additional 20 cm of sea-level rise in the end – which is the same amount the world’s coasts have experienced since the beginning of the pre-industrial era,” explains lead author Matthias Mengel. “For some it might seem that our present actions might not make such a big difference – but our study illustrates how wrong this perception is.” The researchers’ central projections indicate global sea level rise between 0.7 and 1.2 metres by 2300 with the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement put fully into practice, while temperature stabilisation below 2°C is insufficient to hold median sea level rise by 2300 below 1.5 metres.

Read the PIK press release in English here, and the article in English here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier The energy transition and climate change.


Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), has unsuccessfully called for the early shutdown of two nuclear reactors near the Belgian-German border in a meeting with Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel, reports Moritz Küpper for Deutschlandfunk. The NRW state government is concerned about the safety of the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors, but the Belgian government sticks to its plans to phase out nuclear power by 2025, said Laschet after the meeting. “Belgium’s position is that ‘the climate goals are what’s important for us, and so we need this nuclear energy for a while’. Energy prices are lower in Belgium than in Germany, and this is seen as a competitive advantage. So we need good arguments when we push for an accelerated exit […] in the future,” said Laschet. As supply security and prices are important to the Belgians, the European single market must enable the necessary amounts of power to be imported, also by expanding the grid, he said.

Read the article in German here.

For background on Germany’s nuclear exit, see the CLEW dossier The challenges of Germany‘s nuclear phase-out.

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