The heads of German luxury car makers are probably breathing a collective sigh of relief.

On Monday, European Union environmental ministers voted to delay an enhanced carbon emissions rule after the German government withdrew its support, according to The New York Times.

Newly re-elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government no longer support the rule, which was agreed on in June and was expected to be ratified Monday. Her move was supported by England.

Environmental groups say this is the result of heavy lobbying by German luxury car makers.

"Two German manufacturers, BMW and Daimler, have decided they will miss this target and task the German government with weakening and delaying it instead," Franziska Achterberg, EU transport policy director for Greenpeace, said in an e-mail to the Times.

2015 Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-In Hybrid

2015 Mercedes-Benz S500 Plug-In Hybrid

The new rule would have imposed more stringent carbon emissions regulations on cars made within the EU's 28 member countries.

The carbon-emission metric is almost directly proportional to fuel efficiency: the less fuel burned by a car, the less carbon is emitted.

Current rules require each car maker to reach a fleet average of about 43 mpg by 2015. That number is not comparable to U.S. gas mileage estimates, as the test cycles vary considerably.

The rule that was struck down by Germany would have required car makers to attain a fleet average of around 60 mpg by 2020.

For German luxury makes--many of which are struggling to meet the original 2015 target--the delay would come as a relief.

"It's not a fight over principles but how we bind the necessary clarity in climate protection with the required flexibility and competitiveness to protect the car industry in Europe," German environment minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters regarding the emissions law.

A German proposal would delay implementation of the stricter standard until 2024, but it would need to be approved by EU member states--many of which oppose a delay--and the European Parliament.


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