23 Aug 2017, 00:00
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Env min: diesel software update not enough /Anti-coal protests heat up

Federal Ministry for the Environment / Federal Environment Agency

German environment minister Barbara Hendricks says the software updates for diesel cars exceeding emission limits agreed on at the national “diesel summit” in early August can only be “a first step” and need to be followed by technical retrofitting of the engines. In a joint press release by the environment ministry (BMUB) and Germany’s environment agency UBA, Hendricks said the car industry’s “refusal to initiate retrofitting is inacceptable”, adding that the associated costs “of course have to be paid by the carmakers.” UBA president Maria Krautzberger said the software updates did not substantially improve air quality “because the vehicles’ point of departure is much too bad.” The UBA estimates software updates could reduce the car fleet’s NOx emissions by 3 to 7 percent, depending on how many car owners made use of them, which was not enough to meet the annual average of 40 micrograms per cubic metre prescribed by EU rules.

Find the press release in German here.

See a CLEW article on the Diesel Summit’s results and a CLEW timeline of the dieselgate affair for background.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Police in the western German city of Aachen are worried that the planned anti-coal protests in the Rhineland mining region next week could turn violent, Reiner Burger reports for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Dirk Weinspach, chief of Aachen’s police, said he did not intend to sweepingly criminalise all 7,000 expected anti-coal protesters, but a small minority of activists were attempting to “trivialise” criminal action, Burger writes.

See the CLEW factsheet When will Germany finally ditch coal? for more information.

Aachener Nachrichten

Western Germany’s coal mining regions have long profited from mining companies’ cash flow into local communities but in exchange have tacitly agreed not to talk about immediate effects on the environment, disappearing villages, and emissions, Burkhard Giesen writes in a op-ed for Aachener Nachrichten. “Let others deal with it” has been the consensus, and that is what they are now doing, as protestors flock to the Rhineland from across Europe to demonstrate against the coal industry, Giesen writes. “The energy transition starts on our own doorstep and climate change is no dream of the future but already dictates everyday life in many countries,” he says, adding that “lignite is not going to be a part of that future.” 

See the commentary in German here (behind paywall).

See the CLEW factsheet When will Germany finally ditch coal? for more information.


Many parties avoided clear messages on a lignite phase-out in their election programmes, but “coal does not have reliable friends in any of the parties, anymore”, writes Klaus Stratmann in an article for Handelsblatt. Party programmes lack “coherent concepts” on the future of coal or the energy taxes and levies system, Stratmann writes.

Read the article (behind paywall) in German here.

For background on the general elections, read the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende. On Germany’s coal, read the factsheet When will Germany finally ditch coal?

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach

Almost half the German population believes the federal election in September has already been decided, Renate Köcher of polling agency Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach writes for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Survey results show 71 percent of Germans believe Angela Merkel will remain the country’s chancellor. However, the outcome is still uncertain, because 46 percent of Germans do not know who they will vote for, Köcher writes. With two additional parties (FDP, AfD) likely to enter the German Bundestag, coalition-building options will change “dramatically”, he adds.

Read the article (behind paywall) in German here.

For background on the general elections, read the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende.


The environment and the energy transition is not among the most important topics for Germans in the upcoming general elections, according to a survey by YouGov. 53 percent of respondents called it extremely or very important for their decision who to vote for, putting it in 10th place. Pension and retirement (74 percent), social security (73 percent), protection from criminality and terrorism (72 percent) and healthcare (71 percent) were the most important topics, according to the study.

Find a press release and the survey for download in German here.

For background, read the CLEW dossier Vote2017 - German elections and the Energiewende.


Germany’s next government will have to find a way to change the current system of energy surcharges, regulations and economic incentives, which “leads into a cul-de-sac”, Andreas Kuhlmann, head of the German Energy Agency (dena) says in an interview with Handelsblatt. The current system, centred on the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), “prevents innovation and has long ceased to fulfil its necessary steering function,” Kuhlmann argues. The dena head says more rigorous carbon emissions pricing represented a “reasonable” alternative to fund the energy transition, as it would effectively reduce emissions, rather than merely refinance investment in renewable energy sources.

Find the interview in German here (behind paywall).

See the CLEW article German carbon tax most efficient way to meet climate goals – study and the CLEW factsheet Germany ponders how to finance renewables expansion in the future for background.


Diesel technology has long been hailed as a climate-friendly alternative to petrol but has suddenly come under intense fire, amounting to “a broadside against Germany’s leading industry,” Alfred Gaffal, president of Bavarian industry association vbw, writes in a guest article for Handelsblatt.  “Of course, reducing emissions as much as possible is an incontestable goal and in the best interests of people and the environment,” Gaffal says. But “sweeping driving bans” and abolishing diesel engines “are no solution”. Research into alternative engines ought to be supported, but “a quota for e-cars imposed by law” would be equivalent to “a planned economy” which could “not dissipate customers’ doubts and reservations,” Gaffal says. Individual measures like a quota are not helpful, he writes, arguing that meaningful climate protection requires a “comprehensive concept” to integrate clean electricity generation and electric mobility.

See the CLEW dossier The Energiewende and German carmakers and the CLEW interview “Diesel summit comes two years too late” with ICCT Europe director Peter Mock for more information.


The once illusory concept of a carbon-neutral combustion engine could soon become a reality, German car industry supplier Bosch says in a press release. With synthetic fuels - so-called “eFuels” - CO2 could become a valuable resource for making petrol, diesel or gas, Bosch argues. “Synthetic fuels can make gasoline- and diesel-powered cars carbon-neutral, and thus make a significant contribution to limiting global warming,” Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner says. According to the company's calculations, synthetic fuels used across Europe and accompanied by electrification of a part of the continent’s car fleet could save up to 2.8 gigatonnes of CO2, or three times Germany's total 2016 emissions.

Find the press release in English here.

Rheinische Post

Digital meter readers are gradually becoming mandatory in German households but many residents are unsure how they benefit from the technology, or how safely it treats their power consumption data, Dagmar Fischbach writes for Rheinische Post. “Smart meters” are meant to allow better control of electricity use and will be mandatory in every German household by 2032, Fischbach says. But what's helpful for commercial power customers might make less sense for private households, she writes. “Even if I know that the power for my electric kitchen stove is most expensive around noon, I won’t be able to just skip cooking,” Werner Fliescher of homeowner association Haus und Grund argues.

Read the article in German here.

For more information on “smart” technologies and the energy transition, see the CLEW dossier The digitalisation of the Energiewende.

German Farmers' Association (DBV)

The German Farmers' Association (DBV) has criticised German and EU transport policy, saying conventional biofuels were necessary for climate protection beyond 2020. “Traditional biofuels” based on rapeseed, sugar beet or grains are sustainable, and the European Commission’s proposal to replace them with biofuels from straw or scrap wood is unacceptable, DBV vice president Wolfgang Vogel says in a press release. 

Read the press release in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet The role of biofuel and hydrogen in Germany's transport Energiewende.

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