Politicians would make terrible magicians. That’s my conclusion after reading about a new proposal from the German government about how they think carmakers should (or shouldn’t) meet European carbon emission targets for cars in 2020 that are being finalised this month.

Under pressure from the car industry, the German government has come up with a grand illusion.

Its proposal is an attempt to trick the rest of Europe into playing into the hands of car companies like BMW and Daimler. It wants want to keep lucrative gas-guzzling cars on the road for years ahead. The rest of Europe should boo them off the stage.

With a clumsy trick unworthy of even an amateur magician, the German government wants to allow its carmakers to pretend to reduce their average car emissions by counting clean vehicles more towards the average than polluting cars. What’s worse, carmakers would be allowed to ‘bank’ their imaginary emission reductions and use them to lower the average in 2020 when the new target kicks in. So while carbon emissions would meet reduction targets on paper, in reality they’d be way off the mark.