Brussels faces criticism over car emissions plan
Brussels is set to receive strong criticism from both industry and green groups for its controversial plans to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new cars from 2012.
Car manufacturers say the plans, which are still being fine-tuned before their highly anticipated publication on Wednesday (19 December), will damage them while green campaigners accuse the European Commission of having given into the automobile industry.
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"It is not good for the environment, nor for the industry", Luxembourg green MEP Claude Turmes told EUobserver, referring to the core of the commission proposal.
Under Monday's version of the document, obtained by EUobserver, "manufactures may form a pool in order to meet their targets". The commission earlier this year set the target of a maximum if 130 grammes of CO2 per kilometre from 2012 onwards.
"Where two or more manufactures form a pool, the pool will be treated as if it is one manufacturer for the purposes of determining its compliance with the targets", the paper says.
Mr Turmes described the pooling idea as "quite disastrous", as it would mean less pressure on carmakers to produce cleaner engines coupled with greater motivation to create mergers.
"It is becoming more and more annoying to see how the commission gives up to short-term interests of industry", the lawmaker added.
But car makers say this is the only way they will meet the target, with one of the industry's top figures telling EUobserver the pooling idea was their baseline demand in order to be able to achieve the 130g CO2/km goal.
"It all depends on what kind of pool the commission will suggest in the end", said a representative from the European Automobile Manufacturer's Association, referring to the fact that the proposal lacks some important details, such as how the 130g CO2/km average will be distributed between big and small cars.
"It is not well prepared", he continued.
The EU's executive body is set to unveil its controversial proposal on Wednesday (19 December), but the document is expected to see changes up until the very last minute.
"Since there have been intensive work on the level of services directly concerned (...) at this stage, the parameters are very clear. What is now at stake is the final decision by the top, political level and in this respect it is not unusual at all to reserve the final decision to that top level", the commission spokesperson said on Monday (17 December).
Another highly contentious issue is the level of penalties for those manufacturers failing to meet the target. Brussels is considering several options - 7€/gram is the lowest level, while 150€/gram is the highest.
According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, "the idea as such is wrong, but if at all implemented, the fine should not exceed 20€/gram". Carmakers say that a higher amount would be excessive when compared to a maximum penalty of 100€/tonne introduced in the emission trading scheme.
But Mr Turmes argues that legislation without effective penalties - he suggests at least 100€/gram of excess CO2 emissions - would be toothless.
The Luxembourg politician also rejected arguments that the legislation will damage the competitiveness of European car producers and result in job cuts.
"There is no risk of delocalisation, as the caps will apply to all cars - produced in Europe as well as imported here", Mr Turmes said.
In 1998, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association committed itself to reducing average emissions from new cars sold to 140g CO2/km by 2008 - but this target is far off being achieved.
According to commission data, while emissions have been declining in non-transport sectors, CO2 emissions from road transport have increased by 26 percent between 1994 and 2004. Currently, passenger car use accounts for about 12 percent of the EU's overall CO2 emissions.