2023 Author: Eric Donovan | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 05:39
Germany has adopted the 2020 climate protection target. That did not surprise Schaeffler Chief Development Officer Peter Gutzmer, as the manager said in an interview with Autogazette.
For Schaeffler Chief Development Officer Peter Gutzmer, politicians must present future climate policy “in consensus with industry, not against it,” said the manager in the first part of the interview with Autogazette. The fact that Germany has just adopted the 2020 climate protection targets did not surprise him. "Right from the start, this ambitious goal was not linked to a plausibility check of the necessary measures."
As a large business location integrated into global systems, Germany was not in a position to “achieve such a one-sided goal that was not coordinated with and with the other sectors”.
Like the Federation of German Industries (BDI) recently, the manager warned Germany against going it alone when it comes to climate policy. “At the end of the day, economic activity is characterized by compromises and optimization. We have already lost industries in Germany due to our high energy prices. It is important to ensure that no more follow,”said Gutzmer, who is also Schaeffler's Deputy CEO.
Economic action shaped by compromises
Autogazette: Mr. Gutzmer, Ms. Merkel said at the World Climate Conference in Bonn that climate policy is also a future-oriented economic policy. Do you share this opinion?
Peter Gutzmer: Absolutely, because we are in global competition and combine that with a targeted, supportive economic policy. Germany in particular must bring both aspects together in a future-oriented manner.
Autogazette: Does this opinion also hold a majority in German industry?
Gutzmer: (laughs) At the moment, this opinion is probably not a majority. We haven't found the necessary prioritization either.
Autogazette: The Federation of German Industries recently warned Germany against going it alone in energy and climate policy and spoke of possible production relocations abroad. Do you see such a danger?
Gutzmer: Yes, unfortunately this can become a point if there is one-sided prioritization. At the end of the day, economic activity is characterized by compromises and optimization. We have already lost industries in Germany due to our high energy prices. It is important to be careful that no more follow. For politics, the goal of finding social consensus is to find the right balance in terms of content and timing.
Present climate policy in consensus with industry
Autogazette: What are your expectations of politics?
Gutzmer: Germany must present future climate policy in consensus with industry, not against it, taking into account the economic aspects relevant to global competition.
Autogazette: What does the current climate policy mean for Schaeffler? You are not a company with a high energy requirement.
Gutzmer: How did you come up with that? We also have a high proportion of energy in important areas of our productive value chain. For example, we have large heat treatment areas or forging areas, i.e. areas that require a lot of energy.
Autogazette: If electricity would become more expensive, would you have to put parts of the production to the test?
Gutzmer: Possibly, but environmental and climate policy is not just a question of electricity. There are influences from a large number of other factors in addition to those from the environmental and energy sectors in the product fields in which we are active.
I'm not surprised not to achieve the climate protection goal
Autogazette: If you follow your arguments and those of the BDI, then climate policy and competitiveness are mutually exclusive. But isn't it exactly the opposite? Will Germany not only remain competitive as a business location if we position ourselves sustainably?
Gutzmer: From my point of view, they don't have to be mutually exclusive! We have to find optimizations and compromises, after all there is not just one but many ways. Above all, however, the willingness to take a holistic view is required: After all, there are differences between service companies from the IT sector and companies from the classic productive value-added environment. If we fail to do this, Germany will have to accept losses as an industrial location.
Autogazette: Germany will no longer achieve the 2020 climate protection target, which provides for a 40 percent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to 1990. Would it have taken more effort to achieve this goal?
Gutzmer: I am not surprised that this goal is not achieved. Right from the start, this ambitious goal was not linked to a plausibility check of the necessary measures. I value it as a goal in order to start a development that contributes to getting close to such a goal. As a large business location that is integrated into global systems, we are not in a position to achieve such a one-sided goal that is not coordinated with and with the other sectors.
Don't question the goal per se
Gutzmer: Because achieving this goal forces you to renounce habits and lifestyles and, ultimately, freedom of movement. Despite all understanding of the environment, the individual is not prepared to give up his habits for this alone. The relationships are too complex and cannot be understood ad hoc.
Autogazette: The Paris climate protection agreement provides for a CO2 reduction of between 80 and 95 percent for the EU and Germany by 2050. Is it also an unrealistic goal for you?
Gutzmer: It is extremely difficult to make forecasts over such a long period of time. But I'm not questioning the goal per se. But with today's knowledge, the expected mobility needs of tomorrow and the extrapolable individual behavior of people, this goal is neither achievable nor financially feasible from today's assessment and plausibility check.
We also have to think in a CO2-neutral way
Autogazette: The general conditions for achieving these climate protection goals are not right for the industry?
Gutzmer: We as a company are in global competition. And in order to survive internationally, we need legislation that is coordinated with global criteria, regionally harmonized and, above all, sustainably stable. Of course, politics can set certain priorities. For example, subsidies can be used to secure or create new jobs in a region. But politicians are doing too little with regard to supplementary assessments. There is currently a strong focus on CO2-free. But we also have to think in terms of CO2-neutrality and focus on overall systemic, cross-sectoral considerations. The global consensus between business and politics in terms of required and affordable - and perhaps even more ambitious - contributions must be intensified.
Autogazette: The transport sector in Germany accounts for a fifth of all CO2 emissions. In addition to industry, buildings and energy, does this sector play a prominent role in reduction?
Gutzmer: In absolute terms, the transport sector has achieved less than planned. But that's not because nothing was done. But on the contrary. Because there is actually a disproportionate increase in demand in terms of mobility needs. As a result, the savings made through new innovative technologies are unfortunately being eaten up again. It certainly makes sense to evaluate the sectors differently and to link them together in a meaningful way. Tendencies towards one-sided mobility restrictions are neither socio-politically sensible and accepted nor expedient. Only cross-sectoral, technologically solution-oriented overall assessments can help here.
I am in favor of ambitious legal targets
Autogazette: By 2030, traffic should reduce its CO2 reductions by 42 percent. However, it is currently above the reference value of 1990. Do we need a quick goodbye to the combustion engine?
Gutzmer: I am definitely in favor of ambitious statutory targets. But I am clearly against technology requirements. We need ambitious, but sensible and realistically achievable climate protection goals, also to change people's awareness and our usage behavior. We stand for a socially free market economy - and with it comes technological freedom. With a view to the goals to be achieved, we should bring forward the best possible technological solutions.
Autogazette: For you, this also includes synthetic fuels …
Gutzmer: … it can be, for example, that synthetic fuels contribute to CO2 neutrality and thus lead the combustion engine into the future as a proven and advantageous solution in our stable ecosystem. And possibly not alone, but in an optimal mix for the respective situation with other technologies relating to electrical solutions. Let the forces in the market decide. And people's mobility behavior will also continue to change.
Autogazette: Isn't the effect of synthetic fuel being overestimated here? Because the energy requirement in production is extremely high.
Gutzmer: There is already so much renewable energy available today and capacities are being expanded further. It makes sense to take a quiet look at each of the technically chosen paths. Accordingly, synthetic fuels should not be demonized too early as a potential component of a CO2-neutral energy chain that needs to be expanded. We have to find ways to use the existing, increasingly volatile amount of decentralized energy. Synthetic fuels will therefore be part of future mobility solutions.
People don't want restrictions
Autogazette: How long do you see the pure combustion engine in this chain?
Gutzmer: Certainly until the year 2035, more likely even beyond.
Autogazette: The Greens want a registration ban for combustion engines from 2030. In Norway it will be from 2025 and Great Britain has announced it for 2040. Are we not only bringing about a change in mobility with such bans?
Gutzmer: As I said, I think technology bans in our liberal basic order are the wrong way to go. One-sided, restrictive, politically oriented evaluations are made here.
Autogazette: You, too, have promised yourself a lot from the purchase premium for electric cars. But the boom did not materialize: between July 2016 and the end of January, only around 51,000 applications were submitted. Is that a disaster with an announcement?
Gutzmer: That surprised me. I too had thought that this would clearly motivate the demand for electric cars. But we have probably not thought through to the end with regard to the consumer. People's insecurity about using a new technology is more pronounced than expected. Because this is about the overall mobility system, not just the electric car. The most striking point is certainly the still incomplete charging infrastructure. People do not want restrictions or changes that are fraught with great unknowns. They want to use their car as usual and charge it as quickly and safely as they fill it up.
Need easy-to-use fast charging options
Autogazette: So for you it depends in particular on the charging infrastructure?
Gutzmer:Naturally. Higher costs and the reduced range are further limitations of the familiar, but the charging options are the main argument. We need easy-to-use fast charging options on the main arteries. And I can also well imagine that people will increasingly accept that they will mostly charge at home. I'm pretty optimistic that in ten years' time at least 25 percent of the cars put on the market each year will be electric cars. Regionally maybe even more. Ultimately, however, around 75 percent of the other vehicles will still have an internal combustion engine - and with it the advantages of an existing robust infrastructure as well as other usage benefits. You will not be able to change that through prohibitions.
Frank Mertens conducted the interview with Peter Gutzmer
Also read part 2 of the interview with Peter Gutzmer
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