The timing of the proposals was intended to confirm the EU's leading role in the fight against climate change, following a two-week UN climate conference in Bali (EurActiv 17/12/07), but severe divisions between member states as well as between Commissioners Günter Verheugen, in charge of enterprise and industry, and Stavros Dimas, responsible for the environment, mean the plan could be put off until the new year.
According to Chris Davies, the British Liberal MEP in charge of steering the new legislation through Parliament, an internal draft of the Commission's proposal still states only that the size of the reductions to be achieved by each manufacturer should be calculated using a formula "based on the equation AxB+C, where B is the mass of each car, while A and C have 'still to be determined'".
"This issue is hugely controversial and the outcome will inevitably please some manufacturers and disadvantage others," commented the MEP.
Nevertheless, in an attempt to ensure that individual carmakers are not singled out, the Commission intends to allow manufacturers to team up in order to share out the burden of meeting their goals. This would mean, for example, that BMW, whose average fleet emissions in 2006 still stood at over 180g/km, could team up with France's Peugeot-Citroën, whose fleet emits just 142g/km, in order to submit an average figure for the complete range of vehicles they produce. Companies in a pool would be treated "as if they are one manufacturer for the purposes of this regulation", the text is expected to say.
However, it would be up to manufacturers to negotiate such "pool" arrangements and it is far from clear why it should be in the interest of low emission carmakers to agree to them.
The Commission is also expected to propose a system where fines for failing to meet the emission targets are phased in over three years. "The polluter will pay, but later," one Commission source told Reuters.
But the size of these penalties is also proving to be a source of controversy, with fees yet undecided. Davies says Parliament is likely to insist on penalties of €100 to €150 per g/km but the Commission could set initial fines at €70 or even €30 and phase in higher levels later on.
In another key test for the EU to prove its dedication to combating climate change, member states are also due to vote on a Commission proposal to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation this week (20 December). But, here too, MEPs fear that governments will lack sufficient ambition.
"Aviation is the first litmus test on whether ministers take climate protection really seriously. Unfortunately there is some worrying information […] Most alarming is Council's position on the starting date," said German centre-right MEP Peter Liese, who is Parliament's rapporteur on the proposal.
Indeed, the Portuguese Presidency is expected to propose postponing the inclusion of aviation in the EU's emissions trading scheme until 2012 for intra-EU flights, while intercontinental flights would stay out of the scheme until as late as 2013. "Given the warnings from scientists, this is completely unacceptable since we should start earlier in order to really limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2015," said Liese (see LinksDossier on aviation and ETS).