Car manufacturers will reveal their latest efforts to fight pollution at Frankfurt's motor show on 12 September, presenting a range of new 'greener' models, including Volkswagen's 'BlueMotion', BMW's 'Efficient Dynamics', Ford's 'ECOnetic' and Renault's 'eco2.'
But green NGO Transport and Environment (T&E) has not been swayed by the line-up, saying that carmakers will have to make changes to their entire fleet – rather than just presenting the odd green model – if they are to make a real difference in cutting emissions.
"It's not good enough to have one or two cars…What we need is emission reductions across the board," T&E spokesman Dudley Curtis said.
According to a study published by the green group on 5 September, European carmakers - who accounted for 81% of new car sales in the EU last year - reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by just 0.2%, "the worst performance on record".
Their analysis is based on sales figures compiled by the Commission in view of monitoring the automotive industry's progress towards meeting a voluntary commitment to cut CO2 emissions to an average of 140g/km by 2008/9.
With CO2 emissions from all new car sales in the EU averaging at 160g/km in 2006, T&E underlined that the voluntary target will now "almost certainly" be missed.
It urged the Commission to proceed with plans presented last February (EurActiv 07/02/07) to introduce binding legislation on the matter: "Clearly, the voluntary commitment wasn't worth the paper it was written on and regulation is needed now more than ever. The EU must stick to a legally-binding target of 120g/km by 2012 and ensure that a series of long-term targets are in place leading to 80g/km by 2020."
Carmakers have nevertheless defended their progress, pointing to the "significant reductions" of 13% that manufacturers have achieved since 1998, despite both the failure of public authorities to introduce timely labelling or tax measures aimed at stimulating consumer demand and increasingly stringent EU legislation on car safety, which they say forces cars to become heavier and less fuel-efficient.