In November 1998, ten years ago last month, and following an aggressive lobbying campaign against legislation, the European car industry made a voluntary commitment to improve fuel efficiency and cut CO2 emission by a quarter by 2008. The industry has manifestly failed on this commitment: the target was 140g, the average car sold in Europe emitted 158g CO2/km in 2007.
Although the European Parliament and EU Member States have today agreed on a legal framework to reduce car emissions, in reality the law represents nothing more than a postponement of the 2008 target for another decade.
The text of today’s agreement also mentions a 95 g/km target for 2020, but the clause is written in weak language, opening the door to further postponements or weakenings.
Jos Dings, director of T&E said: “In 1998, oil was trading at a fraction of the prices we have seen over the last 12 months, and our knowledge of the severity and urgency of the climate change threat was not as far advanced as it is today. And yet the car industry, backed by the major car producing countries has managed to kill a car fuel-efficiency law in Europe for the second time in a decade. Europe sent the wrong signal to the car industry ten years ago, and it has sent the wrong signal again today.”
“The EU’s long term greenhouse gas reduction targets will simply not be reached if the industries primarily responsible for climate change are able to weaken their individual targets to this degree. The reality of course is that other industries have been cutting emissions over the last decade since Kyoto was signed, while those from the transport sector, and cars in particular have been rising. The car industry, once again, has been given special treatment.”
“The story of this law is the story of special interests in industry and national governments preserving the status quo, at the expense of R&D firms, parts suppliers, car drivers and all those hit by the wider impacts of climate change and higher oil prices.”
“The car producing countries of Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Sweden have all played a role, by defending the specific interests of their national industries. Germany to delay implementation of the short-term targets, and weaken language on the long-term targets; Italy to win major concessions on fines; the UK for special protection for its high-consuming luxury car brands and Sweden to guarantee special treatment for its flex-fuel cars. The French presidency was in the end responsible for giving away loopholes to every country that asked. The attempts of other countries to stand-up in the broader public interest have sadly failed. This law has been killed by a thousand cuts.”
“What was needed was a law to guarantee a long term transformation in the way cars are designed, engineered and marketed. What has been agreed today will mean a continuation of the mediocre progress we have seen over the last decade, and no incentives for the technology transformation that is so desperately needed.”
“There is one region where the car industry has been even more successful in fending off fuel efficiency legislation…there is one region where the car industry is in terminal decline. That region is the United States. Tonight Europe’s car industry has not just dealt a blow to the world’s environment and citizens, but also to its own future.”