Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

EU sets world's toughest CO2 emissions cap for cars

  • The legislation is set to be ready by the latest next year (Photo: EUobserver)

After one of the bitterest internal power struggles in recent years, the European Commission on Wednesday finally unveiled a compromise proposal on limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new cars, but many crucial elements remain unclear.

Standing side-by-side on the podium, commissioners Guenter Verheugen (industry) and Stavros Dimas (environment) who for the past weeks have been locked in a tussle over where Brussels' priorities should lie – keeping jobs or fighting climate change – announced a mandatory CO2 emissions cap of 130 grammes/km for new cars by 2012.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

This is less ambitious than an earlier proposal by Mr Dimas - which set 120 grammes/km as a cap for car-makers - but the commission tried to sweeten its climbdown in favour of industry by saying that the 120 grammes/km target would still be reached using other measures.

The remaining 10 grammes would come by measures that would not have to be met directly by car makers - such as more efficient air conditioning, the use of biofuels and changes to tyres.

Car emissions currently lie at around 160 grammes/km.

Europe leading the way

Both commissioners stressed the importance of the proposals which will also apply to all cars being imported into Europe.

This is the "most ambitious target anywhere in the world" said Mr Dimas while Mr Verheugen said "we will be leading the field for a very long time."

However, environmentalists believe the commission has sold out to the powerful German car industry which launched a massive counter lobby against the original suggestion which put the full burden of 120 grammes/km solely on car-makers.

Defending himself against accusations that German car-makers were too easily able to bend his ear, Mr Verheugen said it is not the manufacturers of big gas guzzling vehicles - a lot of which are German-made - that will be so strongly affected by the proposals but rather the builders of small and medium-sized cars.

He warned of a "full-blooded attack" from Chinese and Indian cars, who can make the cars to these environmental standards but more cheaply.

Further fight expected

The commission's proposal on Wednesday was just a headline compromise. A further hefty fight is expected to come as the experts begin drafting the law - set to be ready in 2008 at the latest.

Many key details remain unclear, such as who will take the lead on the dossier in the commission - the environment unit or the industry unit - with important implications for the shape of the legislation.

Other questions include whether the law will be staggered, coming into force in stages, whether it will distinguish between big and small cars, forcing larger car makers to shoulder most of the pollution-reducing burden, and whether it will incorporate penalties for misbehaving car manufactuers.

The past weeks have seen a rift between French and Italian car-makers - such as Renault and Fiat - who generally produce smaller more energy efficient vehicles and the German car industry - home to DaimlerChrysler and BMW - with the smaller car producers wanting to ensure German manufacturers also take on their fair share of green measures.

The commission's law will eventually go to member states and parliament for approval, with some MEPs already anticipating the intense lobbying that is expected to come as the proposal moves further along the Brussels legislative pipelines.

"The European Parliament now has the chance to ensure that the German car industry does not act as a brake on EU efforts to combat climate change when it deals with the proposal," said Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes.

EU countries set for scuffle over CO2 targets

The EU's desire to fight climate change will be put to the test as its 27 environment ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday to agree on common targets to reduce climate change – something member states are deeply divided over.

State aid on roads harms EU climate battle

EU member state road transport subsidies hamper the bloc's Kyoto efforts to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, the European Environment Agency says in a new report launched on Monday.

EU climate ambitions are too low, MEPs say

The European Parliament has said that the greenhouse gas cuts recently proposed by the European Commission are insufficient. Some MEPs argue, however, that the EU assembly should get its own house in green order first.

Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock

Athens agreed on budget cuts worth up to €3.6 billion and extracted some concessions from creditors, but the IMF warned the package might not be enough.

News in Brief

  1. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  2. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  3. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions
  4. Irish PM expected to quit amid police scandal
  5. After Brexit vote, 100,000 UK firms registered in Ireland
  6. Bayrou to support Macron in French presidential election
  7. British by-election tests Ukip strength after Brexit
  8. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  2. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  3. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  4. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  5. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  7. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  8. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  11. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  12. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year