Brussels is poised to set two new carbon emissions targets that all new cars will need to meet by 2025 and 2030, as well as a standard of 95 grams of CO2 emissions per km (g/km) for 2020, according to a draft regulation seen by EurActiv.
Passenger cars alone are responsible for around 12% of total EU emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas.
In 2007, the EU proposed legislation setting emission performance standards for new cars, which was adopted in 2009 by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. Today it is the cornerstone of the EU's strategy to improve the fuel economy of cars and ensure that average emissions from new passenger cars in the EU do not exceed 120 grams CO2/km.
The much-anticipated White Paper on Transport, presented by the Commission in February 2011, flagged measures to raise the €1.8 trillion which the EU says is needed for infrastructure investment in the next 20 years to build a competitive transport system that will increase mobility, remove major barriers in key areas and fuel growth and employment.
At the same time, the Commission said its proposals will dramatically reduce Europe's dependence on imported oil and cut carbon emissions in transport by 60% by 2050.
The paper, due for release next month, is a statement of intent to the car industry, as the EU inches forward its plans to decarbonise the continent’s economy to between 80-95% of 1990 levels, by 2050.
Passenger cars are currently responsible for about 12% of Europe’s carbon dioxide pollution and EU minds have been focused by figures showing that between 1990 and 2008, road emissions actually increased by 26%.
“At the latest by 31 December 2014,” their draft regulation says, “the Commission shall on the basis of a review and impact assessment, if appropriate, make a proposal… to establish the level of stringency of long-term CO2 emission targets for new passenger cars for 2025 and 2030.”
The news was quickly welcomed in Germany, where ADAC, the largest automobile association in Europe said that urgent action was needed to end Europe’s “prolonged dependency on oil”
“In order to continue to give vehicle manufacturers planning certainty, a binding climate target should be fixed/set beyond 2020,” a statement from the group said.
As well as the 2020 target of 95 g/km for cars and 147 g/km for vans, the draft proposes that niche car makers benefit from a 2020 target which is 45% lower than their average specific emissions in 2007.
An "excess emissions premium" on cars that do not meet the 2020 targets would also be maintained at €95g per vehicle.
“We think this is good news for consumers as it will help them to save money on fuel,” said Otmar Lell, a policy advisor for the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) told EurActiv.
Petrol prices are currently at record levels in countries such as the UK but a recent study by the former chief of the UK’s Environment Agency, Malcom Fergusson, found that the 95g/km goal could save drivers up to €848 annually by 2030.
A target of 70g/km for 2025 would increase yearly savings to €1,134.
“Fuel prices have been rising for quite some time,” Lell said, “the increases are becoming more significant, and the intervals between them shorter.”
Tougher CO2 standards equated to greater fuel efficiency and there was “just no alternative”, he said.
Times of austerity
But the news will not be welcomed by some sections of the car industry, which fret about the effects of passing on efficiency investments in the face of tough overseas competition at a time of austerity.
Sigrid de Vries, a spokeswoman for the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) told EurActiv that the 95 g/km target remained “very challenging”.
She cited factors including “the required technological transformation, the necessary market-uptake and the wider economic context that forces cost absorption through other channels than product price.”
A report this week by the CARS21 group, which brings together car manufacturers, EU officials and NGOs, found that the development and production costs of meeting the 2020 targets “are lower than in previous estimates”.
But responding to a question from EurActiv on 6 June, Sergio Marchionne, the president of ACEA and CEO of Fiat, described this as “almost nonsensical”.
“Not a single member inside our organisation that has deviated from the original cost estimate on delivery and compliance,” said Marchionne, who is also CEO of Fiat.
The CARS21 document “reflects a number of concessions that this industry made with the other participants to facilitate the drafting of the final version,” he explained
Trade union support
Europe’s trades unions though have adopted a more supportive stance to fuel efficiency improvements, which are likely to require more workers in the production process, and more hi-tech training.
“Our past experience has shown that only strict legal frameworks will push the industry into the right direction,” said Wolf Jäcklein, the policy advisor to the IndustriAll union, which represents over 7 million workers in fields such as metalworking, energy, and mining.
“The process towards de-carbonisation of transport needs to be pursued,” he told EurActiv. “That’s the only way we can ensure a future for Europe’s automotive industry.”
Strong fuel efficiency regulations have given European cars an advantage in the international green car race, but this could be under threat.
In the US President Obama’s restructuring of the US car industry in 2009 led to an emissions standard for cars equivalent to 70-80g/km by 2025. If Europe does not follow suit, it risks being left behind
Industry observers say that CO2 reductions up to 60g/km – a likely target for 2025 or 2030 – could be accommodated by increased hybridisation of vehicles.
“Beyond that, we have move to pure electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles, and that’s where it starts to get interesting,” one analyst told EurActiv.
If sufficient investment in renewable energy and low carbon technologies has been made by this point, it could mark the moment when decarbonisation of Europe’s road transport system becomes technically feasible.
Franziska Achterberg of Greenpeace called for 2025 target to be brought forward “as soon as possible”.
“This will bring efficient cars out of the motor shows and onto Europe’s roads and help unlock the technologies we need to get off oil altogether,” she said.
Greg Archer, the programme manager at the environmental group T&E said: “Tighter CO2 standards for cars will be welcomed by drivers across Europe who will save €500 per year at the pump on average if this proposal is adopted. But drivers have also been short-changed: tightening the 2020 target to 80g CO2/km would have saved them a further €150 a year.”
He continued: “The biggest problem with this proposal is the absence of a vision for progress beyond 2020. This is going to erode the leadership the European automotive industry has achieved. Thanks to new rules put in place by the U.S administration, the typical American car by 2025 will include more advanced technologies for fuel efficiency than the average European vehicle. There is a real danger that Europe is going to lose its competitive edge in low carbon vehicles if suppliers don’t get the investment certainty needed to develop advanced technologies.”
Leaders of the automotive supply chain industry have also spoken out for indicative targets for 2025 in the past. Reacting to the CARS21 document on 6 June, Peter Tyroller, the president of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) said: “The automotive suppliers employ five million people in Europe making it a leading creator of wealth on our continent. By further investing in safety and environmental performance we will strengthen the global technology leadership of the whole industry”.
But Sigrid de Vries, a spokeswoman for the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) challenged this view. “The auto industry is awaiting the Commission proposal, expected to be published shortly, and needs to have the full picture with regard to the modalities and the feasibility of achieving the proposed objectives before ACEA can give a first assessment. Reaching a fleet-average target of 95 by 2020 will remain very challenging in view of the required technological transformation, the necessary market-uptake and the wider economic context that forces cost absorption through other channels than product price. Thorough consideration of all relevant factors will be necessary.”
- July 2012: European Commission to publish proposals for 2020 CO2 targets for auto-industry
- 2013: Review of 2020 target expected to wrap up
- 31 Dec. 2014: EU expected to complete review of targets for 2020 and 2025
- 1 Jan. 2015: 130 grams of CO2 per km target to be enforced across Europe
- 2020: 95 grams of CO2 per km target expected to enter force across Europe
- 2025: European Commission could impose another milestone on the road to decarbonsiation by 2050
- 2030: European Commission could impose another milestone on the road to decarbonsiation by 2050