Monday

27th Mar 2017

Commission wobbles on fight against climate change

  • German car makers said on Monday that jobs would be lost in the EU if strict targets on CO2 were imposed (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission has proposed stricter standards on transport fuels in its fight against climate change. But critics call the move a diversion from the real problem caused by car emissions, on which the EU executive may soften its plans.

Under the slated law, oil companies will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions caused by the refining, transport and the use of their fuels by 10 percent between 2011 and 2020.

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.

The move would effectively cut emissions by 500 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020, which is the equivalent of Spain and Sweden's combined emissions, the EU executive said on Wednesday (31 January).

CO2 - carbon dioxide - is widely believed to be the main cause of global warming speeding up the process of climate change.

The new plan would also impose tighter limits on pollutants such as sulphur and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons - which the commission said can cause cancer - in diesel and gasoline in the 27-member bloc.

"This is one of the most important measures in the series of new initiatives the commission needs to take to step up the fight against global climate change," EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement.

"It is a concrete test of our political commitment to leadership on climate policy and our capacity to translate political priorities into concrete measures," he added.

Fuel project is humbug, MEP says

But green MEPs say the commission is using the fuel scheme to divert attention away from the much disputed plan to propose mandatory reductions on car emissions.

"Focussing on fuel quality alone to address emissions from road transport is like trying to quench a forest fire with a water pistol," said green MEP Claude Turmes from Luxembourg.

"By placing a disproportionate emphasis on fuel quality, the commission is diverting attention from the real problem - the cars that use the fuel - and creating the illusion that fuel from plants is the panacea for our climate problems," he pointed out.

"Car manufacturers are trying to wriggle out of a target for CO2 emissions that they have agreed to a long time ago and pass the buck on to others, like the fuel industry," he said.

The auto industry is likely to miss a current voluntary target to cut average emissions for new cars to 140 grams by 2008 - the current average is around 163 grammes.

Although no commission spokespeople wanted to comment on any numbers for the EU executive's delayed proposal on reducing car emissions - now set to come out next week - press reports have said the commission is considering bowing to industry demands and setting a compromise target of 130 instead of 120 grammes by 2012.

Merkel wades in

German chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday (30 January) backed her national car industry and vowed to fight any commission proposal that aims at imposing an average cap on car emissions, saying that different cars should have different limits.

"The continued failure to set an effective binding target for car manufacturers...is a sad reflection of the priorities of this commission," said Finnish green MEP Satu Hassi.

But the commission denied it was being influenced by the car lobby and chancellor Merkel's statements, and said that today's proposal would not have an effect of next week's proposal.

"It does not in any way compromise the proposal on the table for the revision of strategies on reducing CO2 in new cars," Mr Dimas' spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich told journalists in Brussels today.

"Anybody who suspects or who speculates in this particular point in time that we are not ambitious on reducing CO2 in new cars will be deeply disappointed once the decision has been taken," she stated.

German EU presidency struggles with climate change

The German car industry has warned that there will be massive job cuts if Brussels sets binding targets on greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the German EU presidency is strongly divided over the issue itself.

Carmakers fall behind on CO2 commitments

Car manufacturers have fallen behind on voluntary undertakings made in 1998 to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions from automobiles. Brussels may legislate to enforce the commitments.

Merkel backs car lobby against EU emissions law

German chancellor Angela Merkel has joined the critics of a European Commission plan to limit car's average CO2 emissions, saying that different models should have different limits.

Analysis

Lukashenka: End of an era?

The political spring in Belarus ended just as the actual season began, but greater changes loom after 23 years of dictatorship.

Investigation

How the Italian mafia found a Dutch home

One of the biggest mafia trials in Europe in recent years is about to end. Members of the Crupi clan are accused of smuggling vast amounts of cocaine from South America to Italy, using the Netherlands as their main hub.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  2. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  3. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  4. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  6. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  7. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  8. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  10. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  11. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  12. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People