EU proposes 25 percent cut in new car emissions

Brussels, Belgium – The European Commission is considering a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars by 25% by 2012. The strategy would impose emissions requirements on automobile manufacturers; encourage the use of alternative fuels; and promote more fuel-efficient consumer behaviour.

The Commission, which has the ability to propose legislation for the European Parliament, is making the recommendation for regulation because voluntary agreements with the auto industry have not met their targets.

In 1995, the EU set a goal of reducing the average CO2 emissions from new cars to 120 grams per kilometre (g/km) to mitigate climate change. Voluntary agreements with EU and Asian car manufacturers involved a pledge to increase fuel efficiency and achieve a target of 140g/km by 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Although progress was made, cars have become more powerful in recent years, consumers continue to buy heavier, less-efficient cars, and technology improvements have not been as significant as envisioned. Average emissions fell from 186g/km in 1995 to 163g/km in 2004, and the industry is not on track to meet the targets.

As a result, the Commission decided that binding legislation would be necessary, although there was disagreement within the Commission following consultations and lobbying by the automobile industry.

The new strategy, which will require follow-on legislation, seeks to force car manufacturers to bring average emissions down to 130g/km by 2012 by improving efficiency, introducing new technologies, or launching more fuel-efficient vehicle models.

To reach the overall target of 120g/km, complementary measures will be needed to encourage the use of biofuels, fuel-efficient tires and air conditioning, and promote changes in traffic, road-safety management, and driver behaviour. The Commission also proposes:

  • To invest in more research aimed at reducing emissions to an average of 95g CO2/km by 2020;

  • to encourage member states to promote and stimulate the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles (via labelling and car taxation), and;

  • to demand that car manufacturers sign up to an EU code of good practice on car marketing and advertising to promote more sustainable consumption patterns.

The ACEA (the EU’s Automobile Manufacturers Association) criticized the new targets for being “arbitrary and too severe”, saying the EU government had not fulfilled its role in the voluntary agreement of improving vehicle labelling and introducing tax measures to stimulate consumers to buy fuel-efficient cars.

EU officials in turn urged the industry to view the proposed regulations “not as a burden” but as a “chance for innovation”. Some had called for the 120 mg/km limit to be required of manufacturers, and were disappointed at the concession.

Automobile emissions in Canada

Canada followed the European model of voluntary agreements in 2005, signing a deal with the industry which would require a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 5.3 Megatonnes by 2010. These cuts are to be achieved by development of advanced vehicle emissions and diesel technology, increased production of alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles, and application of high fuel efficiency technologies.

In September 2006, media reports indicated that once that agreement expires, Canada will adopt the tough vehicle emissions standards used in California. California passed new tailpipe standards last year, requiring automakers to reduce tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases nearly 30% by 2016. Vehicle manufacturers are challenging the law, and are engaged in lawsuits at the state and federal levels to block it.

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