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EU may delay gas car ban as Net Zero revolts spread across Europe

Net Zero Samizdat

28 January 2024


1) Europe’s ICE ban could be delayed, Porsche says
Carscoops, 26 January 2024

2) European elections: Europe’s conservative bloc calls for dropping ICE car ban
Politico, 18 January 2024

3) Net Zero revolts across Europe threaten EU policy as elections loom
The Daily Telegraph, 27 January 2024
4) Security recall: The risk of Chinese electric vehicles in Europe
European Council on Foreign Relations, 25 January 2024

1) Europe’s ICE ban could be delayed, Porsche says
Carscoops, 26 January 2024

A slowdown in demand for battery-electric vehicles could force the EU to rethink the ban

Porsche chief financial officer Lutz Meschke has asserted that European plans to ban the sale of new combustion-powered vehicles could be delayed.

The European Union has long planned to stop the sale of combustion vehicles by 2035 but a recent slowdown in sales of battery-electric vehicles has raised questions about whether the phase-out is achievable. While many have thrown their support behind the plan, others do not believe it is achievable and these concerns have already prompted the UK to delay its planned ban of combustion vehicles by five years to 2035.

While speaking with Bloomberg at the global unveiling of the long-awaited Porsche Macan Electric, Meschke asserted that the European ban could be delayed.

“There’s a lot of discussions right now around the end of the combustion engine,” he said. “I think it could be delayed.”

While he did not explain why he thinks it could be delayed, it is likely in part due to pressure from certain manufacturers as well as broader consumer sentiment about electric vehicles and concerns about charging infrastructure.  Porsche itself could benefit from the delay, although it has already committed to the widespread electrification of its entire range with the 911 being its sole combustion model.

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2) European elections: Europe’s conservative bloc calls for dropping ICE car ban
Politico, 18 January 2024

BRUSSELS — Europe’s biggest conservative force, the European People’s Party, wants to massively bulk up the EU’s external guard force and drop plans to phase out the combustion engine across the bloc by 2035, according to a draft of the party’s manifesto obtained by POLITICO.

With its heavy emphasis on migration control and call to “preserve our Christian values,” the manifesto reflects the growing strength of right-wing parties across the bloc. According to POLITICO’s Poll of Polls, the EPP is set for victory in the European elections in June. […]

In a swipe at Europe’s Green and Social Democrat parties, and an appeal for industry support, the draft calls for unwinding one of the landmark policies of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her erstwhile climate czar, Frans Timmermans — a ban on combustion engines from 2035.

“We reject a ban policy, such as a ban on combustion engines,” the manifesto reads, “and will also revise it as soon as possible.”

Instead of forcing the shift to electric cars, the EPP says it will rely on “innovative concepts and market-based instruments for climate protection with emissions trading, the expansion of renewable energies and a circular economy,” adding that it wants to “further develop” the Green Deal — von der Leyen’s big package of climate laws.

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3) Net Zero revolts across Europe threaten EU policy as elections loom
The Daily Telegraph, 27 January 2024

The farmers travelled across Europe to make their presence known in Brussels, but they needn’t have bothered. The EU is already painfully aware of the populist rebellion bubbling up against its net zero plans after a string of dramatic tractor protests that threaten to mushroom into a continent-wide movement as June’s European elections approach.

Disruptive farmers’ protests are nothing new in Europe, but this is different.

Tractors are or have been on the march in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Belgium, and, crucially, the Netherlands.
Would tractor protests have become so ubiquitous were it not for the Dutch farmers, whose fight captured the attention of the likes of Donald Trump and Elon Musk?

While grassroots uprisings like France’s “Gilets jaunes” inspired their share of copycat movements, they did not enjoy the same success as the Dutch last year.

Dutch voters headed to the polls in regional elections in March for a vote that was overshadowed by demonstrations against EU climate targets for nitrogen reduction.

The farmers – in the world’s second-largest agricultural exporting country – were particularly incensed at the plans of Mark Rutte, the prime minister, to buy out and shut down farms to hit the targets.

Their demonstrations, despite occasional outbreaks of violence and accusations that the far-Right had infiltrated the movement, struck a chord far beyond their rural base.

Urban voters were tired of Mr Rutte, the longest-serving prime minister in Dutch history, and the elections became an effective referendum on his 13 years in office.

Political earthquake in Netherlands 

In them, voters turned to the Farmers-Citizen Movement (BBB), a party closely associated with the protests.

Launched in 2019, it had a single MP, its leader and founder Caroline van der Plas, a journalist and farmer’s daughter.

But it won a landslide victory in the regional elections to become the largest party in all 12 Dutch provinces.

The political earthquake shook Mr Rutte’s coalition government, which collapsed in a row over migration in July, leading to a general election in December.

That brought another major upset. The winner by a distance in the general election was veteran Right-winger Geert Wilders.

The anti-migrant nationalist is a fierce critic of Islam, and of the EU. A supporter of a Nexit referendum, Mr Wilders has also called for the Netherlands to quit the Paris climate change agreement.

The BBB were leading in the polls before Mr Rutte resigned, but lost ground to the controversial Mr Wilders.

Nonetheless, it won seven seats, a jump of six, in the Dutch parliament and is in the mix to be part of a future Wilders-led coalition government of Right-wing parties.

That success was even sweeter for the BBB because of the defeat handed to Frans Timmermans, who led an alliance of Left-wing and green parties in the election. […]

Macron fears rise of ‘gilets verts’

Those were dwarfed by demonstrations that have erupted in France, which have already left two dead. A car rammed into a famers’ roadblock on Tuesday, killing a woman and her teenage daughter and seriously injuring her husband.

Emmanuel Macron, the president, has ordered Gabriel Attal, 34, the country’s new prime minister, to focus on quelling a potential “jacquerie” (peasant’s revolt).

He fears the threat of a “gilets verts” movement, a revolt among farmers along the lines of the “gilets jaunes” rebellion that saw protests against fuel tax hikes around the country in 2018.

On Monday, a group of farmers blocked access to the Golfech nuclear power plant in the southwestern Tarn département. Farmers have also been blocking the A62 and A20 motorways in southwestern France for the past four days.

An explosion damaged a government building near Carcassonne related to the environmental transition ministry last weekend. Graffiti with the word CAV, a militant wing of wine unions notorious for violent action, was found inside.

The country’s second biggest union, CGT, has promised “spectacular action across France”  while FNSEA, the biggest farmer’s union, also said it was mulling protests.

Against a backdrop of fears that the farming unions are being “overwhelmed by grassroots” anger, one minister cited by Le Parisien spoke of a “wind of panic” in the cabinet. […]

Spain’s climate change law in Vox sights

In Spain, the Union of Unions, which brings together the country’s farming associations, has announced fresh protests for Feb 21, with tractor columns expected in 15 citiesto demand the ditching of green policies

The climate-sceptic far-Right Vox, Spain’s third-largest party, has said it would repeal Spain’s climate change law, with its targets for net zero.

And Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the president of the Madrid region, has rebelled against energy-saving rules limiting the use of air-conditioning and shop window lighting.

Tipped to one day be leader of the centre-Right Partido Popular, Ms Ayuso has flirted with climate scepticism.

In 2022 she called the net zero agenda “a big scam [that is] impoverishing more and more citizens”.

German plans watered down

In Germany, the EU’s largest economy, thousands of tractors descended on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in January as part of nationwide protests that shut down motorways and city centres.

These demonstrations were triggered by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s plan to cut certain tax breaks for farmers as well as their subsidies for polluting agricultural diesel.

Even after those plans were watered down, with the tax breaks restored and the phase-out of diesel subsidies to take place gradually over several years, farmers took to the streets anyway. […]

EU feels pressure in run-up to polls

In Brussels, there is already much discussion about what such widespread discontent could mean for the European Parliament elections.

The EU has set itself a goal of reaching net zero by 2050, a target championed by Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president.

But Mrs von der Leyen is already under pressure from her own centre-Right European People’s Party to water down green legislation.

She has already moved to weaken strict EU protections for wolves and to shelve animal welfare legislation over cost of living concerns, while the bloc’s nature restoration law was heavily amended by conservatives.

The latest polls predict anti-EU parties are set to win the European Parliament elections in nine of the member states – Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia – and come second or third in another nine countries.

The hard-Right Identity and Democracy Group (ID), which includes Marine Le Pen’s RN and the Alternative for Germany party, could go from being the fifth to the third-largest bloc in the EU parliament this year, which experts warn could weaken support for net  zero in the European Parliament.

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4) Security recall: The risk of Chinese electric vehicles in Europe
European Council on Foreign Relations, 25 January 2024

By Janka Oertel

The security challenge posed by Chinese electric vehicles is in many ways greater – and trickier to solve – than that of 5G networks. With such cars entering the European market at growing speed, policymakers need to move swiftly

At last September’s German auto fair, the new Chinese electric vehicles on display impressed the crowds. Their quality was respectable, even for German car snobs, with the models coming across as playful and fun, yet functional. Importantly, these new cars are cheap in comparison to Tesla or their European counterparts, such as Renault and BMW, with comparable vehicles coming in at 20 per cent more expensive. The names are yet to be widely known, but the array assembled by BYD, Nio, or Dongfeng was a sign that imports would shoot up. The fact that BYD – instead of Volkswagen, as previously – is announced as the main sponsor and mobility partner of this year’s European men’s football championship, hosted in Germany, is a striking symbol of changes to come.

The economic challenge to European competitors is real, but equally crucial are the fundamentally new risks associated with this new generation of cars: these are among the most deeply integrated forms of consumer electronics that exist. Chinese brands are leading the way – and pose serious security issues which the European Union and member state governments must quickly address.

This time is different

One could argue that Europeans should be grateful for nicely subsidised Chinese cars, which could allow Europe to transition to low-carbon mobility faster and cheaper; that they should embrace newcomers in an old market; and that German automakers should pay the price for clinging onto combustion engine-fuelled dreams of eternal engineering superiority. Some observers compare their arrival with the rise of Japanese and Korean manufacturers in the 1970s and note that competition was not the worst thing that happened to the industry.

These are valid points, but they overlook the speed of the Chinese models’ roll-out, the scale of the challenge once European drivers adopt them in large numbers, and the ultimate geopolitical implications of Chinese electric vehicles’ presence on the roads of Europe.

These are not just cars, and indeed modern cars are not intended to be. They are supposed to be platforms for mobility that engage in a constant flow of communication, entertainment, and data sharing. To varying degrees of sophistication, new cars today are already collecting data to train artificial intelligence for automated driving. Inside the vehicle, driver and passenger behaviour is monitored; outside, sensors track and trace the surroundings to teach software to, for example, distinguish between a plastic bag blowing on to the street and a child dashing out between parked vehicles. The future of cars will be electric, autonomous, and highly networked.

Who controls these data flows and software updates is a far from trivial question, the answers to which encroach on matters of national security, cybersecurity, and individual privacy. For these reasons, policymakers have to treat these new vehicles differently from cars as we once knew them. It is concerning that they are yet to fully do so.

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