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28th Feb 2024

EU states set for clash over CO2 caps for cars

  • The potential penalities for car manufacturers as well as a timetable for the CO2 reduction plans have to be agreed (Photo: EUobserver)

EU environment ministers are set for another battle over plans to reduce car emissions, as the Slovene EU presidency has suggested that new passenger cars entering the market in 2020 should have a mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) emission cap of 95 grammes/km.

Later today (5 June), all 27 ministers will meet in Luxembourg to discuss a report by Slovenia, specifying ways in which EU member states want clamp down on the CO2 emissions of European car fleets.

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According to the document, seen by EUobserver, the presidency has proposed "setting a roadmap towards reaching the long-term target of 95 grammes/km by the year 2020". It argues that "a vast majority of delegations favoured, in principle, the introduction of long-term objectives".

This goal would mean an expansion of the ambitions tabled by the commission last year, under which the average CO2 emissions of new cars must be reduced to 130 grammes/km from 2012.

But EU states are divided on the matter.

"Some delegations support the presidency amendment, [while] others would prefer to avoid making reference to a concrete figure since there is no solid scientific basis, at this stage, to determine what could be feasible and appropriate," the paper says.

According to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, the "out of the blue" emission cap of 95 grammes/km is "wrong and technically impossible to achieve". "Any target must be based on an impact assessment," the ACEA's chief Ivan Hodac told EUobserver.

However, Greenpeace transport campaigner Franziska Achterberg welcomed the suggestion. "We're happy to have the long-term goal," she told Reuters, but added that "it's not much, given that every other move is about weakening or delaying the proposals."

Other sticking points - calendar and penalties

The calendar - whether to stick to the commission-proposed 2012 as the year when the 130 grammes/km cap should become mandatory - is among issues that need to be sorted out by EU environment ministers.

Some national capitals prefer to start in 2015, while others are pushing for a gradual implementation from 2012 to 2015. This means that the cap would apply only to a "certain percentage" of the car fleet in 2012 and to 100 percent of the car fleet in 2015.

"Such a transition period reflects the true reality of the industry," Mr Hodac said, adding that 70 percent of cars to be marketed in 2012 are in the final stage of production.

Question marks also hang over the level of possible penalties imposed when industry fails to meet the mandatory target. Under the commission proposal, if the binding target is missed, manufacturers will be fined €20 per gramme over the limit in 2012, rising to €35 in 2013, €60 in 2014, and €95 in 2015.

According to the presidency report, some member states want to lower the sanctions, while others want to apply penalties with a certain degree of flexibility, depending on how far the emissions are from the target.

Governments also differ when it comes whether revenues collected via penalties should be reverted to the EU's budget or become part of national coffers.

In addition, the so-called 'slope of the curve' - defining how to share the burden between different car manufacturers - needs to be hammered out. Germany, chief producer of large, heavy vehicles, is clashing with Italy and France, whose carmakers produce lighter, more energy-efficient automobiles.

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