5th Dec 2023

EU approves 2035 phaseout of polluting cars and vans

  • EU countries approved the phase-out of petrol, diesel cars from 2035 (Photo: European Parliament)
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EU environment ministers on Tuesday (28 March) agreed on a 2035 phase-out of combustion engine cars, concluding a controversial leg of negotiations with Germany.

The agreement will ban the sale of carbon-emitting cars after 2035 and requires car producers to achieve 55 percent CO2 emission reduction from 2030 to 2034 compared to 2021.

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"The direction is clear: in 2035, new cars and vans must have zero emissions. It brings a big contribution to climate neutrality by 2050 and is a key part of the EU Green Deal," tweeted the EUs green deal commissioner Frans Timmermans, who praised the vote.

Only Poland rejected the regulation outright. Italy, Bulgaria and Romania abstained. Italy wanted biofuels to be included in the final text, but the EU Commission rejected this.

Some sports cars are exempted from meeting the earlier target and may be allowed to run on e-fuels following pressure from Germany, which threatened to reject the proposal.

In the days leading up to Tuesday's vote, Germany had demanded e-fuels be included as zero-emission fuel. E-fuels are synthetic fuels made from hydrogen that do not emit greenhouse gases if produced with solar or wind power. But e-fuels are not yet readily available, more expensive, and far less efficient than electric vehicles.

"The end of the combustion engine was adopted. Now the commission can now sweat creating something for e-fuels that will only be used by Porsche and possibly Ferrari," tweeted Greens MEP Bas Eickhout.

Although Germany won a mention of e-fuels in the final text, it's up to the commission to propose a separate delegated act detailing how e-fuels can count toward emission reduction targets. Delegated acts bypass a parliamentary vote. However, parliament can reject a delegated act outright, making its adoption uncertain.

"I am glad that the Council of the EU has finally endorsed the deal on CO2 standards for cars and vans," said Renew MEP and rapporteur of the file, Jan Huitema, after the vote. "Any possible future proposals concerning the use of e-fuels will be thoroughly assessed, both on their content and their legal basis."

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