Thursday

27th Feb 2020

EU ministers seek slightly more ambition in CO2 cars bill

  • Austrian environment minister Elisabeth Kostinger chaired the meeting. The Austrians rewrote the compromise text several times during the day (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Negotiations between EU institutions on a new bill that will set CO2 standards for cars and vans until 2030 will begin on Wednesday afternoon (10 October) after EU environment ministers achieved a common position late on Tuesday evening.

The compromise deal was reached at a Council of the EU meeting in Luxembourg that began in the morning and wrapped up only shortly before midnight.

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  • EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete told ministers to reach a deal, because "failing to do so will have serious consequences". (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Austrian environment minister Elisabeth Kostinger, who chaired the ministerial meeting, said that the deal was supported by 20 of the EU's 28 member states.

Four were against, while four abstained, she said – although a source from one of the member states said there was no formal vote. The distribution of member states was rather an estimate made by Kostinger, the source added.

At a press conference, Kostinger said the council wanted cars to emit 35 percent less CO2 by 2030 compared to 2020 - as opposed to the original proposal of 30 percent from the European Commission.

The council maintained the commission proposal of 30 percent less CO2 emissions by 2030 for vans.

Those targets are considerably lower than what the European Parliament proposed last week - MEPs said that the 2030 target for both cars and vans should be 40 percent reduction.

The Austrian minister said the 35 percent target was "very ambitious", but could not give additional details at the press conference - asking journalists instead to wait for the final compromise text to be distributed.

At the beginning of the day, a substantial majority of countries expressed support for higher targets. But as the day progressed, the Austrian presidency tweaked its compromise proposal to keep Germany and central and eastern EU states on board.

In particular countries where the automotive industry had factories said they did not want ambition to be too high, for fear of job losses.

Several central and eastern countries also expressed concern that too high targets would lead to polluting cars ditched by western European consumers ending up on the second-hand market in the east.

EU diplomat Joe Hackett, representing Ireland, said his country was against the final outcome.

At the end of the meeting, Hackett noted that Ireland would draft a declaration expressing its "disappointment". Delegations from Luxembourg, Sweden, Slovenia, Denmark, and the Netherlands supported Ireland's text.

"We are disappointed that the outcome … did not reflect the desire for greater ambition so many ministers had clearly voiced," the text said.

"The target reductions agreed here will allow the EU manufacturing industry to lose momentum at a time when the industry worldwide is on the brink of transformative change," it went on.

The ministers had put a lot of political pressure on themselves to come to an agreement on Tuesday.

EU commissioner for climate action, Miguel Arias Canete, said that "failing to do so will have serious consequences".

The environment ministers were meeting only a day after the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report about the consequences of overshooting the 1.5C threshold of global warming - average global temperatures are already around 1C higher than in pre-industrial times.

Many ministers mentioned this IPCC report as an important reason to reach a compromise, as a political signal to the world.

The council will now enter into talks with the commission and the parliament, to reach a final compromise of compromises, which will then become the final text of the future EU regulation.

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