A German proposal circulated on the fringes of the EU Competitiveness Council on 27 September calls for phasing-in the EU’s 95 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) fuel efficiency standard for passenger cars over a four-year period ending in 2024.
The proposal, which has been confirmed to EurActiv by several diplomats, would apply the standard to 80% of national fleets in 2020, with a 5% increase in each of the following years, reaching 100% in 2024.
The green think tank Transport and Environment estimates that the scaling down of ambition would lead to an emissions standard of 104g/km in 2020, falling to 100g/km in 2022 before reaching 95g/km in 2024.
Sources close to Berlin say that while the country supports ambitious CO2 emission targets in the transport sector, "car producers should be able to reach the 2020 target in the most cost-effective manner."
If Germany’s bid is successful, it would torpedo a compromise agreement reached by the Irish presidency last June and, simultaneously, end any hopes of the 2025 fuel efficiency goal that the European Commission and Parliament had wanted kept open.
One EU diplomat told EurActiv that the Germans “have just copied and pasted their industry’s wildest dreams.”
The new plan could be used to leverage Germany long-standing position – an expansion of the super-credits system that would benefit the heavier models produced by its car-makers. “It is the stick behind the door,” the diplomat said. “It could be a smart move to try to buy some flexibility but personally, I doubt it.”
Diplomats will now go back to their national capitals to discuss the plan and, despite unease at Berlin’s tactics, it is unclear how they will respond.
Germany delayed a vote on the previous compromise package by using what several diplomatic sources called a strategy of threats, blackmail and intimidation.
EurActiv understands that if normal procedure is followed and a vote is taken by EU ministers, the Irish-negotiated compromise proposal is likely to pass. But if Germany manages to get its own proposal put to a vote alongside the official text, the result is less clear, especially if Berlin decides to play hardball.
Sources believe that the UK and France might not oppose Germany, while Portugal and Austria could hesitate.
“What’s happening is a bit of a scandal,” another EU diplomat said. “For three months we had an agreed package that the European Parliament has been waiting for, and yet the Germans have managed to take it out from every vote at Coreper [the EU member states' permanent representatives committee].”
The source said that the only reason for the delay was that Germany was afraid it would not have a blocking minority in any vote, adding: “Parliament should be very angry with the Council.”
Initial reports – attributed to Berlin – that the German proposal had support from other EU states were stoutly denied by representatives of those states, contacted by EurActiv.
Greg Archer, the clean vehicles manager of Transport & Environment (T&E) said: "On the day that IPCC confirms that global warming is a clear and dangerous risk, Germany wants to give its luxury carmakers four more years to keep selling gas-guzzlers. We need ambitious fuel efficiency standards to save drivers money, boost the economy and reduce climate-changing emissions."
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. Under today's Cars Regulation, the fleet average to be achieved by all new cars is 130 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) by 2015 – with the target phased in from 2012.
Proposals published in 2012 have set further targets of 95g for new passenger cars by 2020, and 147 g/km for vans.
- September 2013: EU proposals now expected to return to Coreper
- 2014: Proposed deadline for EU decision on 2025/2030 targets
- 2015: 130 grams of CO2 per km target to be enforced across Europe
- 2020: Proposed deadline for 95g/km target for cars
- 2025: European Commission could impose another milestone on the road to decarbonisation by 2050
- 2030: European Commission could impose another milestone on the road to decarbonisation by 2050
- DG Clima: Reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars
- DG Enterprise: Competitive Automotive Regulatory System for the 21st Century
- CARS21: Report by High Level Group on the Competitiveness and Sustainable Growth of the Automotive Industry in the European Union
Business & industry
- ACEA: Press release: Long-term CO2 target must be ambitious and scientifically founded, not 'political' (23 April 2013)
NGOs & Think-tanks
- Transport & Environment: Cars and CO2 targets
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