BERLIN - Environmentalists voiced anger Tuesday that Germany is seeking to soften European carbon emission limits for passenger cars to protect its powerful auto sector.

Greenpeace said "the European parliament must stay firm and reject Germany's demands, which only serve to harm the climate, drive up costs for consumers and stifle technological innovation."

Chancellor Angela Merkel has cited the need to protect jobs as she has opposed stricter EU carbon limits that aim to reduce the role of gas-guzzling cars in warming the planet's climate.

EU environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg Monday delayed a decision on whether to tighten the limit to an average of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometers by 2020.

Germany wants the limit to be phased in until 2024, and to apply to only 80% of cars in 2020.

Germany's luxury car makers such as Daimler (IW 1000/18) and BMW (IW 1000/37) tend to make larger cars on average than other European manufacturers and believe the stricter limits would put them at an unfair disadvantage.

Germany's maneuvering sparked media criticism.

"Daimler and Co. can breathe easy again," said a commentary in German daily the Neue Presse of Hanover. "Germany's biggest auto lobbyist is sitting directly at the levers of power.

"For years Angela Merkel has portrayed herself as a climate activist, and for years she has prevented stricter carbon dioxide levels for new cars."

Industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of Duisburg-Essen University has said the delay would hurt investment in cleaner electric and hybrid designs and bore the risk "that electric mobility in Europe will die."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013