Germany, Italy Signal They Could Block EU Combustion-Engine Ban
Opposition to a major plank of the bloc’s climate plans comes as the move to EVs threatens jobs in Europe
Opposition to a major plank of the bloc’s climate plans comes as the move to EVs threatens jobs in Europe
A group of large European Union countries is threatening to block a plan by Brussels to effectively ban the internal combustion engine, endangering the bloc’s ambitious agenda to combat climate change.
Germany and Italy said this week they could block the plan’s formal approval at crucial meetings this week and next. Berlin said it would oppose the plan unless Brussels agrees to allow so-called synthetic fuels that can burn like gasoline and diesel but spew fewer climate-damaging emissions alongside fully electric vehicles.
Under the leadership of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, Europe has adopted an ambitious plan to fight climate-change-causing greenhouse-gas emissions. The plan relies heavily on the mass adoption of electric vehicles and effectively bans new combustion-engine vehicles from 2035.
Parts of the auto industry, which employs 3.4 million people in the EU—nearly 12% of all manufacturing jobs—have pushed back, arguing that including so-called e-fuels into the plan would allow emission targets to be hit while stretching the costly move away from combustion engines over decades.
Some governments have expressed sympathy with the demand as the move to electric vehicles, which are less complex to produce than their combustion rivals, threatens large numbers of jobs in the region.
Under a compromise reached last October, lawmakers agreed that the European Commission could put forward additional rules allowing new vehicles with engines that use carbon-neutral fuels to continue to be sold, but it has yet to do so.
German Transport Minister Volker Wissing on Tuesday said Berlin now wanted Brussels to present this legislation ahead of the plan’s approval, saying that because it had yet to do so, “the German government cannot approve the compromise.”
Italy’s Environment Ministry said that environmental targets should be pursued in a way that avoids harming jobs and production and that electric vehicles shouldn’t be seen as the only route to zero emissions.
Two other countries have also pushed back on the legislation. Poland has informed other member states it plans to vote against the plan, and Bulgaria has indicated it plans to abstain, four EU diplomats said. Poland’s government has previously said that such a ban would restrict consumer choice and lead to higher costs. By acting together, those countries have enough votes to block the plan’s approval.
A spokesman for the commission said it is up to the commission’s political leadership to determine what legislation to propose and when to do so. “The transition to zero-emissions vehicles is absolutely necessary” to meet the bloc’s climate targets, he said.
The European car sector and countries that have begun investing heavily in e-fuel development have spearheaded the effort against the provision in the commission’s plan stating that vehicles should be emissions-free by 2035—a de facto combustion-engine ban.
Germany, home to the region’s largest car makers, said this week that it would soon approve the use of synthetic fuels in the country, a move that would force Brussels to either follow suit or challenge the German law.
German auto makers, including Volkswagen AG, Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Porsche AG and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, have pushed for the use of synthetic fuels to be allowed.
“I’m in favor of intelligent solutions rather than blanket bans,” VW CEO Oliver Blume was quoted as saying in the weekly Welt am Sonntag newspaper in January, adding: “E-fuels are a sensible addition to electric mobility.”
The shift to electric cars is beginning to affect auto-industry employment, raising concerns among politicians that the transition could be moving too fast.
Stellantis NV, which includes Italian auto maker Fiat, this week announced it would cut 2,000 jobs in Italy. Ford Motor Co. recently said it would shed about 3,800 jobs in Germany and the U.K., or around 11% of its European workforce, because fewer employees were needed as the company shifted to electric vehicles.
Meanwhile, Carlos Tavares, chief executive of Stellantis NV, whose brands include Fiat, Peugeot, Jeep and Chrysler, warned on an earnings call with reporters last month that the industry may be getting ahead of its customers.
“I don’t know if people will adapt to a new lifestyle as fast as the car companies have adapted to a new technology,” he said.
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Passwords aren’t enough to fend off hackers; these dongles are the best defense
Strong passwords are very important, but they’re not enough to protect you from cybercriminals.
Passwords can be leaked or guessed. The key to online security is protecting your account with a strong secondary measure, typically a single-use code. This is referred to as “two-factor authentication,” or 2FA, as the nerds know it.
I’ve written about all the different types of 2FA, such as getting those codes sent via text message or generated in an authenticator app. Having any kind of second factor is better than none at all, but physical security keys—little dongles that you plug into a USB port or tap on your phone during account logins—offer the highest level of protection.
Security keys have been around for over a decade, but now they’re in the spotlight: Apple recently introduced support for them as an optional, added protection for Apple ID accounts. Last month, Twitter removed text-message-based authentication as an option for nonpaying users, recommending instead an authenticator app or security key.
Some people are hesitant to use security keys because carrying around a physical object seems burdensome and they come with a $30-and-up added cost. Plus, what happens if they get lost?
I’ve used security keys since 2016 and think they are actually easier to manage than codes—especially with accounts that don’t require frequent logins. They’re not only convenient, but they can’t be copied or faked by hackers, so they’re safer, too.
Here’s how to weigh the benefits and common concerns of adding one or two of these to your keychain.
Many internet services support the use of security keys, and you can use the same security key to unlock accounts on many different services. I recommend two from industry leader Yubico:
Other options include Google’s Titan security keys ($30 and up). In addition to working with laptops and tablets with USB ports, these keys are compatible with smartphones that have NFC wireless. Most smartphones these days have that, since it’s the technology behind wireless payments such as Apple Pay.
Adam Marrè, chief information security officer at cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf, recommends that your chosen key is certified by the FIDO Alliance, which governs the standards of these devices.
To add a key, look in the security settings of your major accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.). During setup, it will prompt you to insert the key into your laptop or tablet’s port or hold the key close to your phone for wireless contact.
Apple requires you to add two security keys to your Apple ID account, in case you lose one.
Typically, when you log in, you just go to the app or website where you’ve set up a key, enter your username and password as usual, then once again insert the key into the device or hold it close. (Some keys have a metal tab you have to press to activate.) At that point, the service should let you right in.
Getting those two-factor login codes via text message is convenient, but if you are someone criminals are targeting, you could be the victim of SIM swapping. That’s where thieves convince carriers to port your number to a new phone in their possession, and they use it along with your stolen password to hack your accounts.
Even if they don’t go to all that trouble, criminals might try to trick you to hand them your codes, by calling you or spoofing a website you typically visit. At that point they can use the code for about 60 seconds to try to break in, said Ryan Noon, chief executive at security firm Material Security.
Security keys protect you in two ways: First, there’s no code to steal, and second, they use a security protocol to verify the website’s domain during login, so they won’t work on fake sites.
You can also add an authenticator app such as Authy to your most important accounts, to use only as a backup. But once you add these secure methods, you should consider removing the text-message code option.
In the rare case that someone snoops your passcode then steals your iPhone, beware: The perpetrator could still make Apple ID account changes using only the passcode, and even remove security keys from your account.
The most important rule of security keys is to buy an extra one (or two).
“Think of your security key as you would a house or car key,” said Derek Hanson, Yubico’s vice president of solutions architecture. “It’s always recommended that you have a spare.”
If you lose a security key, remove it from your accounts immediately. You should have already registered your spare or an authenticator app as a backup to use in the meantime.
Start with your most valuable accounts: Google, Apple, Microsoft, your password manager, your social–media accounts and your government accounts.
When it comes to financial institutions, many banks don’t offer security-key protection as an option, though most leading crypto exchanges do.
Security professionals and tech companies widely agree that passkeys are the future. They’re a new type of software option that combines the high security of a physical key with the convenience of biometrics such as your face or fingerprints. Passkeys are supported across the Android, iOS, Mac and Windows platforms, and some of your favourite sites already let you use them.
You can create a passkey on Facebook in security settings by following the app’s instructions under the security-key option. Dropbox has a similar passkey setup. Once you’re done, you’ll use your face or fingerprint as a second factor, instead of a code or key.
Eventually, physical security keys could be what we keep safe in strong boxes, as backups for our biometric-enabled passkeys. Even then, you’re probably going to want to have spares.
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