Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Opinion

Car-makers ought to back Europe's CO2 cuts - for their own sake

  • We can either reduce the emissions from each car - or we can reduce driving (Photo: Dirk Vorderstraße)

There are two ways of reducing carbon emissions from cars.

One is to reduce the emissions from each car, the other is to reduce driving.

Read and decide

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Surprisingly, the European car industry cling to the latter, which would in fact lower the demand for their products. Why they do this is a mysterious to us.

Climate change is real. The world and the EU member states have agreed to reduce the speed and force of the ongoing change by mitigating carbon emissions.

The goals are set and the debate on how best to reach them is intense. The fact that the emissions in the transport sector is on the rise puts mobility and driving at the center of the debate.

The IPCC recently stated that a transformative shift throughout our entire society is needed if we are to handle climate change in a reasonable way.

There is no simple answer to the complex question of how to achieve this transformation - not in the different sectors, nor for our society as a whole.

A combination of new technology, behavioural change and regulation is needed.

But one thing is crystal clear: there is no room for underperforming on the climate goals.

They are, if anything, set much too low in relation to what must be done to suppress climate change. One way or another the emissions must be reduced.

The EU is about to set new rules for carbon emissions from new cars.

This is the first new climate related legislation since the Paris agreement, and a litmus test on our common ability to deliver on the climate goals.

The European car industry has of course been active in the debate. Unfortunately, they have chosen the side were industry traditionally put themselves in the environmental debate: they hold back.

Yes...but not now

They argue that the timing is wrong, the time table is too tight and that the goals are impossible to reach. No amount of research showing that green technology often is developed faster and to a lower cost than predicted seems to be able to change that habit.

But the maths behind the usual opposition against a strong push for lowering emission through green technology in new cars does not add up to a political situation that is favourable to the car industry.

The only available alternative to reducing the emissions in each car is less miles driven by cars in total, hence a lower demand for new cars.

As green decision makers, we do not mind a political momentum for more public transport, more walking and biking in cities and forced reduction of driving.

We know that this will come with positive effects on public health, social equality and more liveable cities, so there is no need to worry for the overall economy. In a time of great urbanisation it makes perfect sense.

But why the European car industry is working so hard to put politicians in a situation where we will have to drastically speed up the transition away from the private car is difficult to comprehend.

We would argue that taking a global lead in e-mobility would create better business opportunities for their sector than policies for reduced driving.

There are also studies showing that taking the lead in the transition to greener transportation would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

From what we see around the globe, several regions have their eyes set on these opportunities.

Since we have no doubt that the members states who acted upon the will of the European car industry are committed to the climate goals, we are eager to hear their upcoming proposals on how to reduce carbon emission in the transport sector through massive reduction in driving.

We will gladly assist in making sure they are implemented swiftly.

Karolina Skog is Sweden's minister for the environment (Green party) and Jakop Dalunde is a Swedish Green MEP

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