The European Commission proposed on Wednesday (8 November) a legislative package aimed at reducing CO2 emissions in road transport and encouraging the uptake of electric cars, in an attempt to help Europe’s car industry remain competitive in the face of growing pressure from the US and China.
Transport, environment and consumer groups reacted immediately, almost in unison, calling the package “an ineffective regulation” that is “trundling along” and “not going far enough”. But the Commission said it was a “balanced package that allows everyone to contribute… based on sound analysis and broad stakeholder involvement”.
The rationale, in the words of Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, was the need to fight climate change, as transport generates a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution was responsible for 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.
— Maroš Šefčovič?? (@MarosSefcovic) November 8, 2017
The long-term competitiveness of Europe’s car industry also came into play and should be improved by stimulating the manufacturing and purchase of clean vehicles, the spread of charging infrastructure across Europe and the work on developing advanced car batteries.
Under the proposal, the average emissions for new cars in 2030 will have to be 30% lower than the 2021 target of 95 g of CO2 per km. Transport and Environment NGO had called for a reduction of 40%, while Green MEP Bas Eickhout said the Greens wanted to see a 60% decrease from the 2021 level.
“We believe this is the right balance, ambitious, enforceable and cost-effective,” Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told reporters while presenting the package.
Cañete said Europe has already fallen behind while China and the US are pressing on with clean vehicles.
“Europe is currently not on the right track. Electric cars account for less than 1% of new sales,” he said, adding there were only 6 types of EVs available to consumers in Europe, compared to 600 in Asia.
He also said the EU needs to act to restore consumer trust, shaken by the 2015 Dieselgate scandal. “Trust and reliability are in serious jeopardy. Industry must regain the trust. Investing in clean vehicles is the right way to go”.
Critics had also wanted to see a mandatory quota of zero-emissions vehicles imposed, as the best way to make them more widely available.
Instead, the Commission chose to leave it out and incentivise the production of clean vehicles and encourage their use by public transport authorities and citizens. Some critics have said the executive might have caved in to last-minute lobbying by German auto lobby group VDA, whose head spoke to top people in the Commission last week.
Germany’s worries about the new EU rules were confirmed on Tuesday (7 November) when Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that he is against any toughening of European car emissions targets by 2025.
Cañete took a number of questions from reporters on the ambition of the package and stressed that the executive has already come up with infrastructure proposals in its revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
When the Council of Ministers agreed on its so-called general approach earlier this year, Cañete voiced his disappointment with the member states’ “lack of ambition”, particularly on the electric car charging aspect of the directive.
Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said the new proposal focused much more on infrastructure.
“Charging electric cars on EU motorways must be as easy as filling up at petrol stations so we are making this a reality. There is a clear action plan to speed up the deployment of charging points,” she said.
The EPBD is currently being debated in trilateral talks between the three main institutions and Cañete called on the Council and Parliament to show “coherence” with the Commission’s e-mobility plans.