Unilever, Ikea among groups telling EU to keep CO2 targets and adopt green vehicle incentives

Unilever and Ikea have joined with other major European businesses, cities and NGOs to warn that now is not the time to roll back Europe’s cornerstone emissions rules for vehicles. In a letter to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, the 14 groups - including retailer Metro and power giant Vattenfall - say auto industry workers must remain employed as part of a green recovery in which businesses emerge from the crisis stronger and greener.

EU lawmakers have come under pressure from the auto industry to relax emissions targets for cars, vans and trucks. Industry bosses strongly hinted at delaying deadlines for the EU’s CO2 standards while requesting a meeting with President von der Leyen. ‘We believe

therefore that some adjustment would need to be made to the timing of these laws,’ they wrote.

Now several big EU industries have hit back, saying the EU targets were essential to supplying the zero-emission vehicles they need to play their role in decarbonising Europe’s economy. The signatories include several companies from the Climate Group’s EV100 initiative which are putting their money where their mouth is in committing to a rapid EV transition.

‘We therefore call on you to keep in place the EU’s 2020 CO2 targets for passenger cars,

commercial vehicle and heavy-duty vehicles unchanged – and assure full compliance to

ensure the urgently needed investments take place and for the sake of Europe’s regulatory

Credibility,’ the write in the letter, which was also addressed to EU Commission vice-presidents Dombrovskis and Timmermans, and transport commissioner Valean. ‘Rather than altering the regulation or penalties, the focus should be on economic

support to ensure jobs and green investment are maintained.’

The signatories include companies with significant car and truck fleets. Unilever alone has more than 13,000 company cars, while LeasePlan is a leasing company with over 1.8 million cars on the road worldwide. Unlike the car industry that wants scrappage schemes to sell off all vehicle stocks, the letter urges to prioritise limited public cash to support zero-emission mobility. ‘Most vehicles in Europe are bought via lease contracts,’ the letter notes, ‘so it is crucial to provide targeted support to continue the purchase of new zero-emission vehicles in this market, for public and private fleets, as well as consumers. Hundreds of electric models are coming to the market, which if combined with targeted support for charging infrastructure, would be an affordable and suitable electric option for businesses across Europe.’

T&E’s clean vehicles director, Julia Poliscanova, said: ‘Governments must ensure workers throughout car supply chains remain employed, but this is not the time to roll back Europe’s cornerstone emissions rules, such as the CO2 targets for cars, vans and trucks. Rather than altering the regulation or penalties, the focus should be on economic support to ensure jobs and green investment are maintained and demand for zero emission models continues via targeted scrappage schemes.’

Already vice-president Frans Timmermans has delivered a sharp rebuke to the automotive industry’s manoeuvres to waterdown its environmental targets. ‘Delaying stronger car emission standards won’t help the car industry when cities are banning combustible engines and customers are moving towards electric cars,’ he wrote in EurActiv