Germany's environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, has supported the German automotive industry by speaking out against a European Parliament decision last week to adopt European Commission proposals on CO2 emissions limits, without modifying them to make it easier for vehicle manufacturers to comply.

Vehicle manufacturers had been lobbying for the deadline for the introduction of average CO2 emission limits to be phased in, effectively delaying the proposed limit of 120g/km to 2015.

Because of its focus on luxury cars, the German auto industry is likely to find it much more difficult to comply with legislation by 2012 than those in other countries, such as France and Italy, which focus on smaller cars. Manufacturers that do not comply will be subject to fines.

Gabriel said it would be much more difficult to get the legislation approved through its final stages without proposed amendments.

"In my view there will be no law along the lines of the European Parliament proposals."

He has, however, been criticised by Fritz Kuhn, head of Germany's Green Party. He said there was a need to push environmental protection laws to save the auto industry and its jobs, and that only fuel-efficient, non-polluting vehicles would be competitive in the future.

The German automotive industry, through its trade association, the Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA)  is claiming that the law will endanger German jobs. VDA president, Matthias Wissmann, told the Passauer Neuen Presse newspaper that "bureaucratic regulation through excessive and unfair fines and the lack of a transition period endangers innovation and jobs."

Germany's transport minister, Wolfgang Tiefensee, has recommended that the industry could be supported by making available low interest credit for those who buy environmentally-friendly cars that cost less than 25,000 euros. The suggestion has been rejected by opposition parties who say that such a measure could lead to people buying new cars, that could not afford them.

46 members of the European Parliament environment group last week voted gave their backing to the European Commission's proposals for legislation to limit average CO2 emissions to 120g/km by 2012, compared to 19 who voted against. The legislation now has to be approved by the full parliament and Member States.

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