31 Jan 2018, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Diesel loses climate advantage -study/ Gore calls for German coal exit

Diesel engines no longer qualify as being more climate-friendly and are more expensive than other engine technologies like hybrid or petrol, meaning that their falling market share is no bad news for the climate, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) says in an analysis. The ICCT says Germany’s tax privileges for diesel fuel could no longer be justified from a climate protection perspective. The tax on diesel is about 30 percent lower than the tax on petrol fuel. If Germany applied the same taxation as France, it could earn about seven billion euros in taxes more per year, the ICCT argues. The researchers say that diesel’s share in new car registrations could drop from 45 percent in 2016 to well below 30 percent in 2018 “without any negative consequences for the climate protection goals.” The ICCT has found that a share reduced to 15 percent by 2025 would mean that the EU target value for car emissions could still be achieved without additional costs. While diesel cars need less fuel for every kilometre, they emit more CO2 for every litre burned and are often heavier than other cars, which offsets their lower consumption levels, the analysis says. Lower taxation has been the main reason for high diesel sales in recent years, but these deprive the state of a major source of income, the researchers say. Falling battery prices mean that more climate-friendly alternatives are becoming increasingly affordable compared to diesel cars, which is why the current taxation rules could no longer be justified.

Find the study in German here.

See this CLEW interview with the ICCT’s Peter Mock on Germany’s diesel policy for background.

Clean Energy Wire

The EU’s fleet emission limits for 2030 will have an effect similar to a quota for electric cars, according to Volkswagen. The new limits will be so low that carmakers could only reach them by selling a certain percentage of electric vehicles, said Stefan Schmerbeck, head of future technologies at Volkswagen, at the German-Californian conference for Zero Emission Transportation in Berlin. "Of course, the 2030 fleet emission targets are not an explicit quota, but a very strong push in the same direction." Schmerbeck added that VW was not against a quota in principle. "We already have the target of increasing the share of e-cars to up to 25 percent of total sales by 2025, and I don't expect a quota to be higher."

Find background in the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers and the factsheet Dieselgate forces VW to embrace green mobility.

Lichtblick /

Germany’s power labelling regulation allows electricity suppliers to declare a higher than real share of renewables in their customers’ power mix, which amounts to “greenwashing by law,” writes Jörg Staude for, based on data from green power provider LichtBlick. This means that generating electricity produces up to 83 percent more CO₂ emissions than according to the label, and the situation can be compared to the Dieselgate affair, said Gero Lücking, managing director at LichtBlick, in a press release. “Regarding electricity, real emissions far exceed the obligatory emissions data demanded by lawmakers,” he said.

Read the article in German here, and the Lichtblick press release in German here.

Find data on Germany’s power mix in the CLEW factsheet Germany’s energy consumption and power mix in charts.


The European Commission has granted Germany and several other countries a “very last deadline” to propose concrete measures on how they intend to comply with air quality standards, report Till Hoppe and Silke Kersting in the Handelsblatt. After what Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella had already called a “last opportunity” meeting in Brussels, the governments now have time until Monday, 5 February, otherwise the Commission could make good on its threat to sue them, writes the Handelsblatt.

Read the article in German here, and find a Commission statement in English here.

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

Greenpeace Germany

Greenpeace Germany has proposed to the next German federal government an emergency programme for coal to “largely reach” the country’s 2020 climate target. The proposal focuses on throttling or shutting down the “oldest and dirtiest lignite power plants,” as measures in other areas could “hardly lead to significant CO₂ emission reductions,” writes Greenpeace Germany.

Find the press release in German here, and the programme in German here.

Also read CLEW’s article Germany may have to buy way out of EU climate goal - ministry paper and our coalition watch.

Al Gore

Former US Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore has called on Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU union and the Social Democrats (SPD) to agree on a coal phase-out by 2030 during their ongoing coalition negotiations. In two messages, Gore said that the coalition treaty is “a chance to follow through on [Germany’s] climate promise” and now is the negotiators’ “moment to lead and help solve the climate crisis.”

Find the tweets in English here.

For background on the coalition talks, read the article German party leaders agree energy policy blueprint for coalition talks and the coalition watch.

Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)

The parties negotiating a new grand coalition government in Berlin seem to prefer to delegate important climate policy decisions – such as finding a date for a coal exit – to a future commission, rather than taking on the responsibility themselves, writes Daniela Setton, energy expert at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), in a blog post. Setton draws this conclusion from the energy policy blueprint that Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU block and the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed to ahead of the current official negotiations. “On questions of pivotal importance to Germany’s future, the leaders of both parties are muddling through and doing their level best to avoid making decisions that might put them in the political firing line,” writes Setton. Her post was first published by the energy and climate newsletter Tagesspiegel Background.

Find the blog post in English here.

For background on the coalition talks, read the article German party leaders agree energy policy blueprint for coalition talks and the coalition watch.

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