GHG bonuses: Climate protection fraud costs billions: Lawyer explains whether drivers will be compensated

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Apparently, the Federal Environment Agency approved climate protection projects that had not existed for years and whose costs were also borne by drivers. Both drivers of petrol and diesel vehicles and owners of electric vehicles could be entitled to compensation.

Anyone who drives a vehicle with a combustion engine pays a surcharge at the gas station, which is caused by the so-called greenhouse gas reduction fee (GHG fee). It is one of the reasons for the increase in fuel prices and is regulated by the federal emissions control law. It forces oil companies to make significant CO2 savings to meet the climate protection requirements of the European Union and the German federal government.

Oil companies must finance climate projects

Since these requirements cannot be fully met by own measures, such as the addition of bioethanol (E5/E10), offset projects (Upstream Emission Reduction Projects (UER)) are permitted, which the company must finance.

As reported by, among others, the magazines “Frontal 21” and “Welt”, 40 out of 60 compensation projects of this type are suspected of fraud. In particular, new oil production facilities built by large international corporations in China (especially in Xinjang province) should save enormous amounts of CO2. However, contrary to what oil companies claim, these systems do not appear to exist, according to media reports.

Climate protection fraud: drivers pay for non-existent CO2 savings

It is a very profitable business, since for every ton of CO2 supposedly saved, up to 400 euros are collected. It now turns out that in approximately two-thirds of the cases these savings only occurred on paper and in fantasy investments. According to the report, a Chinese company appears to be acting as a whistleblower. As the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reports: The estimated damage to one of these EBU projects is estimated at around €180 million.. In total, the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) approved 75 projects of this type.

The Federal Environment Agency approved fake projects

It will be more expensive for combustion engine drivers because the State wants to use their money to finance CO2 saving projects. According to media reports, the responsible authority (the Federal Environment Agency, abbreviated UBA) has not established any control mechanism to monitor and, where appropriate, enforce the actual implementation of the funded projects. According to the authors, this is even more absurd: the UBA does not even have permission to travel to China and verify for itself that the facilities were (not) built. For me this is a clear case of state failure.

Drivers pay the bill:

  • Drivers of combustion engines pay the surcharge at the pump based on the GHG quota without achieving a proportionate positive effect.
  • Electric car drivers would have benefited from the exchange of pollution certificates and could have recovered more money.

About the expert

Marco Rogert is a lawyer and commercial lawyer at the law firm Rogert & Ulbrich in Düsseldorf. Law firm represents thousands of VW buyers in emissions scandal. As one of the lawyers of the plaintiff consumer association vzbv, he brought the declaratory action model to success. VW compensated 235,000 victims as part of a settlement. Currently, the law firm also represents individuals with suspected vaccine injuries against pharmaceutical companies.

Rogert studied at the University of Osnabrück and the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden (Netherlands) and specializes in transport law, international trade law and credit guarantee law. Until May 2020 she taught business and logistics law at the University of Economics and Management (FOM) Essen.

Drivers of gasoline and diesel vehicles, as well as drivers of electric vehicles, were harmed

However, the GHG share premium has now fallen by around 75 percent in 2024 and instead of the expected bonus of around 400 euros, there is only around 100 euros. There may be several reasons for this. However, if the reports of fraud in EBU projects are true, this will be a relevant factor..

Another example of this factor was reported in the Handelsblatt of January 25, 2024 and the online magazine dmt Puls of January 24, 2024: Last year, the German market was literally flooded with (alleged) “biofuel”. In view of the considerable increase in quantities, there is a suspicion that ecofuels imported from China could be, at least in part, incorrectly declared fuels.

Are drivers entitled to compensation?

If the Federal Environment Agency took appropriate measures to ensure that the projects approved by the EBU were actually implemented and that the fuel declared as biofuel was actually such, combustion engine drivers would get something for their money:

  • The legal question arises as to whether there is a state liability claim and, if so, how it should be calculated. Furthermore, the question arises whether oil companies that have avoided fines for non-compliance with their quota obligations simply because they financed alleged compensation measures should now be held liable for paying the fines. Ultimately, this fine amounts to 600 euros per ton of CO2.
  • The question for electric car drivers is: If you are entitled to an adjustment of the GHG quota by the UBAbecause they suffered a disadvantage as a result of the suspected fraudulent measures. Only thanks to these EBU projects did oil companies have to buy fewer pollution certificates, which is probably an important factor in the fall in prices.

Companies depend on approvals from the Federal Environment Agency

Furthermore, in favor of electric vehicle drivers it can be argued that the oil companies involved have caused them harm by paying uncontrolled compensation measures instead of purchasing pollution rights, not to mention the setback for the stated environmental protection goal. However, these companies will claim that the measures were ultimately approved by the UBA and that they did not have to carry out their own audit requirements.

Overall, it is clear that something is wrong with the EBU project system and the review of biofuel imports. In my opinion, it would make sense to abolish compensation through EBU projects and thus force oil companies to buy pollution rights due to their own successful efforts to reduce CO2. Then the desired system will work. Currently this is not the case.