• Setback for climate policy as MEPs ‘lose their nerve’ over new cars

    MEPs have voted to weaken European targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars. T&E says they have ‘lost their nerve’, and MEPs from the Green group called the vote ‘a massive setback for EU climate policy’.


    The vote came in last month’s plenary session, which discussed the Commission’s proposal to set an obligatory maximum emissions level for new cars. Although it is not binding on the Commission, it is meant to give an indication of what MEPs will support, and Brussels must bear this in mind when drafting formal legislation in the new year.

    The European Parliament’s environment committee had recommended the current EU policy – that the average new car should emit no more than 120 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2012 – be confirmed and not watered down as the Commission is proposing. Instead, MEPs voted for a package that is weaker than even the Commission’s proposals.

    40% WEAKER

    The vote was for a binding limit to be set, but that this should be 125 g/km by 2015. T&E pointed out that, in terms of emissions reduction per year, that target is 40% weaker than the existing ‘120g by 2012’, and 20% weaker than the EC proposal of ‘130g by 2012’ announced in February.

    T&E policy officer Aat Peterse said: ‘Making cars more fuel-efficient is one of the most important steps Europe can take to cut emissions, reduce oil dependence and cut fuel costs, yet MEPs seem to have lost their nerve. Sadly there is an increasing disparity between what MEPs say needs to be done about climate change, and what they are prepared to do in reality.’

    The car industry lobby group Acea was happy with the three-year delay but said the proposed target of 125 g/km was still ‘too stringent’.

    The report’s rapporteur, the British Liberal Democrat Chris Davies, said: ‘Many MEPs would like to punish the car makers for failing to reduce carbon emissions, but that’s not acceptable. We need to give the industry sufficient time to make the design changes at least possible cost.’

    T&E has long been highly critical of the argument that car makers need more time, pointing out that the 120 g/km target was originally set for 2005, and that the current voluntary agreement under which the makers agreed to bring average emissions down to 140 g/km by 2008 is going to be missed by a big margin.

    The resolution suggested that the current new cars target of 120 g/km should remain for 2015, with the missing 5% made up of ‘complementary measures’ such as biofuels and improved tyre measures. Environmental groups are unhappy about complementary measures being counted in place of part of the car industry’s fuel efficiency requirements, fearing this merely weakens the EU’s overall efforts to combat climate change.

    The MEPs’ resolution recognised that a longer-term target of 95 g/km is needed for 2020. T&E welcomed this, but said 80 g/km would be easily feasible by then.

    This news story is taken from the November 2007 edition of T&E Bulletin.