On their way in, attendees had to brave a phalanx of Greenpeace protestors dressed as storm troopers from the film Star Wars, calling on them to avoid the "dark side" of increased CO2 emissions.
But they did not inspire a common car industry position.
“The issue was not closed,” Sergio Marchionne, the president of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) told EurActiv, “because we never got to the point.”
“There was never an ‘ask’, or a clear expression of intent to find a resolution to the question,” he added. “But we never got there.”
Marchionne, head of Chrysler Group and its Fiat SpA affiliate, was recently appointed as ACEA’s president for 2012.
Despite the current impasse, he insisted that a common automobile industry position on the EU’s proposals would be thrashed out during his presidency and “in the next 12-18 months.”
In 2009, the EU set its first legally binding fuel efficiency standards for automobile carbon dioxide emissions at 120 g/km. To get there, emissions from new cars will be capped at 130 g/km from the beginning of 2012.
By 2020, the European Commission has a fixed objective of 95g CO2/km, which should be confirmed in 2013. This would be close to the most ambitious US scenario for 2025.
Environmentalists suspect that behind the scenes, European automobile manufacturers such as Fiat, Renault and Peugeot-Citroën, whose smaller vehicles emit the least CO2 on average, are less hostile to the Commission’s proposals than some other manufacturers.
“The more progressive car companies must be furious with Volkswagen, who are dragging their feet and trying to stall,” said Greenpeace’s climate campaigner Sara Ayech.
A letter from the German company Volkswagen sent to Greenpeace, and seen by EurActiv, says that the company “is unable to support… any EU climate protection policy which puts jobs at risk and results in de-industrialisation in Europe.”
It decries the 2020 target as “the result of a political decision taken last year.”
The target “is not based on sound impact assessment nor on a realistic appreciation of the costs and technical progress necessary to meet the goal within the timescale,” the letter says.
But this is a contested position within ACEA.
One high-placed source at a car manufacturer traditionally seen as more fuel efficient suggested to EurActiv that his company’s CO2 emissions figures were an indication of the direction in which he envisaged discussions going.
Since the EU’s adoption of the first obligatory fuel consumption standards in 2008 obliged car companies to reduce their CO2 emissions to 120 g/km by 2015, efficiency standards have risen - and costs to motorists have fallen.
In 2011, the average car sold in Europe was 4% more fuel efficient, emitted 4% less CO2, and was 2.5% cheaper in real terms than a year earlier, according to a report by the green transport NGO Transport and Environment.
The industry average for CO2 emissions from new cars had dropped to 140 g/km, reported Transport & Environment, an NGO. On Tuesday (6 December), stakeholders will be holding further discussions with officials in the European Commission.