Commission set to back 2020 car CO2 limits

June 25, 2012

The Commission is planning to set 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre as the obligatory emissions limit for the average new car by 2020. T&E has welcomed the news but says developments elsewhere in the world mean the 95g limit may now be too weak to safeguard the EU’s leadership on fuel-efficient cars.

The Commission is expected to publish a draft regulation next month on setting emissions limits for 2020. Longer term targets for 2025 and 2030 will be proposed later, according to leaked copies of the proposal. The move has received support from Europe’s car suppliers, consumer organisations, trade unions, and even Europe’s largest car drivers’ club, the German ADAC.

CO2 emissions are currently at an average of about 140 g/km. They have to come down to 130g by 2015 under existing legislation, so if the 95g target is confirmed for 2020, that would be a reduction of more than a third in this decade. The EU is committed to reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions by 60% between 1990 and 2050, but instead of coming down, emissions from cars rose 26% between 1990 and 2008 when there were either no rules on limiting emissions or only a non-binding voluntary agreement. CO2 emissions from cars currently contribute around 14% of Europe’s greenhouse gases.

T&E cars manager Greg Archer said: ‘Tighter CO2 standards will be welcomed by drivers across Europe who will save an average of €500 a year in fuel costs if the 95g limit is adopted. But it could have been so much more – a target of 80g would make the savings €650 a year. Thanks to new rules put in place by the US administration, the typical American car by 2025 will include more advanced technologies for fuel efficiency than the average European car. There is a real danger that Europe is going to lose its competitive edge in low carbon vehicles if suppliers don’t get the investment certainty needed to develop advanced technologies.’

The Commission’s paper says it is ‘desirable’ to set even tougher standards for 2025 and 2030, ideally by the end of 2014 following a review or impact assessment if necessary.

The European car makers’ umbrella Acea described the 95g limit for 2020 as ‘challenging’ and ‘rigid’. Archer added: ‘Last time the EU set a CO2 standard for new vehicles, car makers whined that cars would become unaffordable. That didn’t happen, car prices came down in real terms and consumers have benefited considerably from improved fuel efficiency. There’s no doubt that legislation provides a massive boost to innovation, and costs fall over time, so the EU should be bolder this time.’

The proposal continues to base emissions on vehicle weight rather than footprint, something T&E has previously criticised because it punishes the use of lightweight materials and vehicle downsizing which are crucial ways of making efficiency improvements. Car makers failing to comply would face fines of €95 per vehicle for every gram over their target.

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