MEPs recommend diluting CO2 cap on cars
Liberal and conservative MEPs in a key committee in the European Parliament have combined to recommend a dilution of proposed rules on capping carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) from cars.
Late Monday evening (1 September), the parliament's industry committee recommended that emission curbs on vehicles be applied only to 60 percent of a company's fleet of cars in 2012, rising to cover a company's entire fleet in 2015.
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The European Commission had originally proposed that the imposition of the cap apply to all new cars across the board as of 2012. The delay would not be the first won by the car lobby. Earlier plans, set in 1995, proposed a deadline of 2005.
New cars must cut CO2 emissions to an average of 130 grammes per kilometre, down from a current average of 158 grammes. Firms that do not meet the target were to be fined €95 per gram per kilometre over the limit, according to the EU executive's earlier proposals.
The industry committee has recommended that the maximum fine instead be €40.
Watering down the proposals still further, the industry committee suggested the introduction of a bonus scheme for car manufacturers, in which cars powered by non-fossil fuels would be counted as one and a half cars in working out the average emissions per fleet, as would cars that emit less than 50 grammes per kilometre.
Similarly, a zero-emissions car would count as three cars.
Werner Langen, a German conservative MEP, described the changes as a "compromise between climate policy and the automobile industry's competitiveness," according to Bloomberg News.
Environmental groups were livid at the weakened proposals.
"The industry committee, by a narrow majority, has fallen into line with virtually every single demand of the car industry lobby," said the cleaner transport campaign group Transport & Environment.
The group's Kerstin Meyer said: "If [the industry committee's] proposals go unchecked by their colleagues in the environment committee, and EU environment ministers, the legislation will be almost completely meaningless."
Jeroen Verhoeven, car efficiency campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The industry committee has voted for the car industry over people and the climate by supporting an opinion ridden with loopholes."
The parliament's environment committee is to give its opinion on the proposed rules on 9 September. The law must still be passed by the parliament as a whole and be approved by EU member states.
Mr Verhoeven was still optimistic that the parliament's environment committee would deliver greener recommendations when it votes.
"The vote wasn't overwhelming and it is now up to the environment committee to get the priorities right next week."