The agreement, announced on 10 June was portrayed in the European media as a breakthrough, with Merkel quoted as saying: ‘I am very happy to be able to say that we both support the EU goal of 120 grams per kilometre on all new EU cars by 2012.’
But environmental groups say the deal, if agreed by all member states, would lead to a severe delay and weakening of the plans.
The agreement is seen as a victory for German carmakers, particularly Mercedes, who have made little progress on CO2 reductions compared with their French counterparts.
Under the terms of the Franco-German agreement, so-called ‘eco-innovations’ such as solar-powered sun roofs would be allowed to contribute 6-8 grams towards each carmaker’s CO2 target. In a letter published in the Financial Times, T&E policy officer Kerstin Meyer said: ‘While such innovations are a good thing in principle, the targets are based on the fuel efficiency new cars achieve under an official testing procedure that does not currently account for them. Including improvements in non-engine technology in the targets currently under discussion is…a way of cheating the system.’
The two leaders also agreed to a ‘phase-in’ of the law, a postponement by another name according to T&E.
‘Whichever word some politicians prefer to hear, the result would be the same. Europe’s drivers, already paying higher fuel prices than they are used to, would have to wait longer for fuel-efficient cars that could be made now and with existing technology’ said Meyer.
Another element that will alarm environmentalists is a target for 2020, which has gone from the recently proposed 95 g/km to a range from 95-110 g/km.
The surprise deal came just days after record oil prices pushed Europe’s oil import bill above €1 billion a day for the first time.
T&E policy officer Aat Peterse said: ‘Europe’s two biggest car producing countries have done a deal to try to keep fuel-efficient cars out of the hands of Europeans for the next decade or more. It is up to the other 25 countries in the EU to stand up for their own interests and kick this disastrous plan into the long grass.’
The European Commission reacted cooly to the deal, a spokesmen told the Associated Press that the EU ‘had no plans to water down its proposal’.
Italian MEP Guido Sacconi, responsible for leading the European Parliament’s position on the car CO2 law, also appeared to be taking a tougher line.
He said last month it was still too early to consider delaying or phasing in the new limits. But he faced opposition from several MEPs on the Parliament’s environment committee whose governments are pushing for a 2015 deadline.
The EU agreed in 1996 that the average new car should emit no more than 120 g/km by 2005. There is still a nominal target of 120 g/km by 2012, but last year the Commission proposed a 130 g/km target, with the other 10g to be achieved through ‘parallel measures’ such as improved tyres.