BRUSSELS German car manufacturers are seeking to widen a loophole in EU regulations that would allow them to produce more cars with carbon emissions above a 2020 EU target.
EU car manufacturers are divided over how a 2020 EU target to cut carbon emissions to an average of 95 grams per km should be shared out across the European industry.
A proposal from German automakers' body VDA would allow manufacturers effectively to add on around 10 grams of carbon per km to the EU target, campaigners say.
VDA wants a larger number of "supercredits", which permit manufacturers to produce more cars that exceed the EU target if they also make very low emission cars, such as electric or hybrid vehicles.
It advocates letting vehicles with slightly higher emissions than the minimum set by the European Commission qualify for supercredits, and getting rid of a cap of 20,000 registrations per manufacturer.
"Twenty thousand is far too low," Eckehart Rotter, VDA spokesman, said on Monday. "Supercredits are a good thing."
Campaigners accuse VDA, which represents brands such as Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and BMW (BMWG.DE), of seeking to defer compliance with EU targets and of making them less ambitious.
"The cumulative supercredits proposed by the VDA would increase the target by at least 10 grams," Franziska Achterberg, EU transport policy adviser at Greenpeace European Union, said.
"They are calculating the target, rather than trying to achieve it."
European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has sought to limit the number of supercredits, while Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has taken up the carmakers' argument.
According to publicly available minutes of a Commission meeting in July, Oettinger said the cap of 20,000 registrations "seems too low, particularly for high volume manufacturers".
Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) is among those who have supported supercredits.
"Supercredits for vehicles with very low CO2 emissions are a positive incentive for the manufacturers, which does not cost the taxpayers anything and would be applied consistently across the EU," Hartmut Baur, senior manager, environmental, energy and transport policy at Daimler AG, said earlier this month.
EU Spokesman for Climate Action Isaac Valero-Ladron said supercredits could lead to increased carbon dioxide emissions if "significant use is made of them", but they could also serve as "a sort of technological stimulus" to encourage innovation.
"For this reason, it is appropriate to allow for super-credits for a period of four years while limiting the number of vehicles which can benefit from them to 20,000 cars per manufacturer over the duration of the scheme," he said.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Mark Potter)