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Last Updated: Monday, 12 March 2007, 12:31 GMT
Germans spurn EU speed limit plea
Lights on German Autobahn
German drivers cherish their freedom on the Autobahn
Germans have rejected a call by the EU environment commissioner for Germany to impose a speed limit on its motorways.

Stavros Dimas told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the "simple measure" of a general speed limit on the Autobahnen (motorways) would cut carbon emissions.

His call followed the EU's summit pledge to cut greenhouse gases - with the German chancellor in the vanguard.

But Germans say restricting speeds on their famously unrestricted motorways would make little difference.

A spokesman for the German transport ministry, Dirk Inger, said an overall Autobahn limit of 100km/h (62mph) would reduce CO2 emissions by only 0.6%. The ministry also said 98% of German roads already had speed limits.

Social Democrat (SPD) leader Peter Struck warned against "climate hysteria" and stressed that "our economic position has to be considered too".

German lead role

The German Association of the Automotive Industry - a body which includes BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen - said Germany needed "no coaching" from Brussels on climate protection, the Associated Press reported.

Germany's car manufacturers take pride in the popularity of their high-performance models.

Mr Dimas argued that speed limits were the norm in most EU states and in the US - "and only in Germany, strangely, is this controversial".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel - currently the EU president - says the EU should spearhead global efforts to prevent climate change.

She steered last week's EU summit where leaders pledged to cut CO2 emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020.

Passenger cars alone account for more than one-tenth of the EU's CO2 emissions.

In 1998, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (Acea) pledged to the European Union on behalf of its members to reduce the average CO2 emissions for new cars to 140g/km by 2008.

According to industry figures, Fiat, Citroen and Renault have gone much further towards meeting their targets for emissions cuts than German manufacturers BMW and Volkswagen.


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