MEPs keep on trucking, back higher CO2 targets

Truck-makers will be able to meet their targets by producing buses, after an amendment to create a vehicle-specific benchmark was defeated. [Shutterstock]

Members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday (14 November) to beef up a first attempt to regulate CO2 emissions from heavy vehicles, going beyond what the European Commission originally proposed.

A full sitting of the Parliament narrowly endorsed (373 in favour and 285 against) increasing a CO2 reduction target for 2025 from 15% to 20%, and boost the 2030 benchmark up to 35%.

The result largely reflected what happened in a mid-October vote in the environment committee, which also increased the overall ambition of the Commission’s original plan, the first attempt the EU has made to regulate heavy vehicle emissions.

Green lawmaker Bas Eickhout, who was tasked with helming the Parliament’s tinkering with the Commission proposal, welcomed the support of his colleagues, citing the recent IPCC report on the effects of global warming as a predominant factor.

EU lawmakers support 55% emission cuts as IPCC spectre lurks

Members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday (10 October) in favour of increasing the EU’s Paris Agreement emissions pledge by 2020. They also urged the European Commission to make sure its long-term climate strategy models net-zero emissions for 2050 “at the latest”.

“After the IPCC report, it’s clear that policy-makers cannot remain asleep at the wheel when it comes to climate action. That’s why EU member states must join the Parliament’s call for far fewer emissions from the transport sector,” the Dutch MEP said in a statement.

In his report, Eickhout suggested splitting the proposed zero and low-emission vehicles sales target, meant to boost the uptake of electric and alternative fuel-powered vehicles, into two separate targets for trucks and buses.

That was an attempt to make sure that manufacturers could not purely meet their targets by building buses, the technology for which is at a more advanced stage than trucks. However, that particular amendment was defeated.

French Socialist MEP Christine Revault Allonnes Bonnefoy criticised her colleagues for striking down another amendment under which 75% of new city buses would have had to be electric by 2030, insisting it showed “the guilty complicity between the car lobby and the European right”.

European cities slow to adopt electric buses

Fully electric buses account for only 9% of urban bus sales in Europe, according to research by Transport and Environment (T&E), a green campaign group. High upfront costs are the biggest barrier to their deployment on a mass scale.

Sell, sell, sell

As it stands, the Parliament will argue in favour of a sales target of 5% in 2025 and 20% in 2030. Any manufacturers falling short of the benchmarks will have to achieve higher fuel efficiency from the diesel vehicles they sell, while top performers will be granted more lenience on the CO2 target.

However, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), which represents the EU’s top seven truck makers, said it was “highly concerned” with the “excessively aggressive” CO2 targets.

“These targets go over and above the proposal made by the European Commission last May, which was already very challenging,” said Erik Jonnaert, ACEA’s secretary general.

ACEA also said in a statement that the 2025 target will interfere with the existing development cycle for new truck models, warning that it will mean manufacturers will have to fit retroactive devices and parts to their vehicles.

Citing the “weak majority” for Eickhout’s report, ACEA added that “we hope that national governments will take a more balanced approach when adopting their common position on future CO2 targets”.

However, Eickhout did garner enough support in Strasbourg to enter directly into negotiations with the Commission and Council.

Truck emissions and the Pandora’s Box of ambition

EU lawmakers are currently tinkering with the European Commission’s first attempt to regulate heavy-duty vehicle CO2 emissions. But a debate is now raging about how strict those cuts should be and how soon they should be enforced.

Over to you, capitals

EU member states will now have to agree on their own joint position before those three-way negotiations can begin. Sources told EURACTIV that they expect tough talks given the example set by a recent narrow agreement on CO2 targets for light vehicles.

Clean mobility NGO Transport & Environment welcomed the result of the vote and its clean trucks officer, Stef Cornelis, said “now it’s up to national governments. MEPs have sent a really strong signal for ambitious targets but also that they are achievable.”

“Discussions will need to move quickly but the momentum is definitely there for a win-win outcome during this legislature,” he added, although Romanian MEP Adina-Ioana Vălean recently told EURACTIV that there “is no need to rush our truck legislation”.

The head of the Parliament’s environment committee said the amount of work on the plates of MEPs ahead of the EU elections in May, as well as the informal recess that happens after March due to campaigning, means that the legislation might not get the attention it deserves.

'We don't have to rush our trucks legislation', warns MEP

The head of the European Parliament’s environment committee has urged her MEP colleagues not to rush the adoption of new EU rules on heavy-duty vehicle emissions, casting doubt on whether the Third Mobility Package can be finalised under this current Parliament.

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