Austria's Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, has vowed to do everything he can to ensure the survival of the combustion engine, aligning with Germany in opposition to the European Union's (EU) plan

to ban diesel and petrol cars by 2035. The ban is a vital component of the EU's goal to become climate neutral by 2050. While the proposal appeared to be moving ahead, Germany and Austria, which had previously supported the Commission's 2035 proposal, are now questioning it.

During a political speech outlining his vision for Austria's future, Nehammer stated, "I, too, will speak out against banning the internal combustion engine," and questioned how a future vision could involve banning the combustion engine while focusing solely on one method of propulsion.

Austria aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2040 to protect the environment. As of late 2022, electric vehicles accounted for approximately 2.2% of Austria's 7.6 million registered and street-legal cars. Newly registered vehicles made up 16% of all cars.

The EU's proposed ban is one of the most contentious environmental policies in recent years, pitting environmentalists and proponents of electrification against the auto industry and other groups concerned about the costs of the switch.

Supporters of the ban believe that it is necessary to combat climate change, as transportation accounts for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, opponents of the ban contend that it will lead to job losses and negatively impact the economy.

Many countries are already implementing their own plans to phase out combustion engines. In the United Kingdom, for example, the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be prohibited from 2030. Norway, on the other hand, has a goal of ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025.

The German government, which is currently being negotiated, is still divided on the combustion engine's future. The Green party, which is expected to play a role in the next government, has called for a combustion engine ban by 2030. However, the conservative party has opposed such a move, arguing that it would be too expensive and harm the country's auto industry.

In addition to Germany and Austria, other EU countries, including Poland and Hungary, are skeptical of the EU's plan. However, other countries, such as France and Spain, have expressed support for the proposed ban.

Regardless of whether the ban is ultimately passed, the automotive industry is already experiencing a transition toward electric vehicles. Many automakers have set ambitious goals for the number of electric vehicles they intend to produce in the coming years. By 2030, for example, Volvo plans to have electric vehicles account for half of its sales.

It remains to be seen how the debate over combustion engines will evolve in the coming years, with environmentalists and industry groups likely to continue to advocate for their respective positions. The ultimate goal, however, should be to combat climate change while ensuring that the transition to a more sustainable future is managed in a way that is socially and economically responsible. Photo by Bundesministerium für Finanzen, Wikimedia commons.