Commissioner’s claims are ‘misleading’ MEPs and ministers over car CO2 standards

August 30, 2018

The EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete has contradicted his own Directorate’s assessment of the impact of reducing CO2 from new cars, by warning that an ambitious emissions target would lead to ‘job losses’ and ‘factory closures’. T&E says the commissioner’s comments are remarkable for being wrong, and based on unpublished studies by autoworker unions rather than the Commission’s own impact assessment. The Climate Commissioner’s proposal is also much less ambitious than many government ministers and MEPs are calling for.

Under EU legislation that came into effect three years ago, the average new car sold in the EU has to emit no more than 130g of CO2 per km. In 2021, that average comes down to 95g, but there is no agreement yet about limits for 2025 and 2030. Last November the Commission proposed a 15% reduction on the 2021 limit for 2025 and a 30% reduction for 2030, but the leading MEP dealing with this issue suggested the 2030 limit should be 50% down from 2021, while many EU environment ministers supported a 40% reduction or more.

‘Something remarkable is happening here,’ said T&E’s clean vehicles and air quality manager Julia Poliscanova. ‘Normally the Commission proposes action, MEPs often fight for stricter standards, but ministers water them down. In this case we have many ministers advocating more ambitious targets than the Commission, while the Commission is scaremongering about the risks. This leaves some serious questions about whom Mr Cañete is defending.’

To counter Cañete’s claims, T&E has published a three-page paper, Why Cañete’s claims about ‘car factory closures’ are misleading, setting out the lack of evidence for what the commissioner is saying. A lot of the evidence showing the lack of justification over fears of ‘job losses’ in the automotive sector and ‘factory closures’ comes from the Commission’s own impact assessment.

Cañete’s claim that ‘thousands of jobs would be lost’ if the EU settled on a 50% reduction target between 2021 and 2030 seems to have been based on an as yet unfinished study commissioned by the German trade unions. But a closer look at this analysis shows that two-thirds of future job losses in the automotive sector will come from increased productivity and digitalisation, not electrification.

The Commission’s impact assessment only examines a 30% and a 40% reduction, not 50%, and it concludes that ‘higher levels of ambition for the CO2 target would lead to a higher increase in the number of jobs’. In response to Cañete’s claim that an extreme transition to battery electric vehicles would lead to ‘factory closures’, T&E’s paper cites a study quoted by the impact assessment that looked at the impact of a 40% increase in battery electric vehicles and a 10% rise in fuel cell vehicles in the period 2021-30; it concluded there would be ‘an immediate increase in employment’ under all but the most conservative scenarios.

Poliscanova added: ‘Electric vehicles are coming, and the real risk to jobs is that in future e-vehicles will be supplied from China and not built in the EU. Despite this, the priority for Europe’s carmakers seems to be to keep selling diesel cars for as long as possible. Instead of trying to help them in this outdated and short-sighted approach, the Commissioner should stop making claims that repeatedly mislead the co-decision makers in the Parliament and Council, and instead work towards a set of ambitious standards that will accelerate the deployment of cleaner technology.’

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