EU parliament backs tougher car emissions limits


Members of the European Parliament voted through the world's toughest carbon dioxide standards for new cars on Tuesday (25 February), prompting a cautious welcome from environmental campaigners.

The new rules set a limit of 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre (g/km) as an average across all new cars sold in the EU, compared with an existing limit of 130 g/km.

The European Commission, the EU executive, proposed the target should apply from 2020, but full implementation has been delayed for a year following months of negotiation.

Germany, on behalf of its luxury car makers, such as Daimler and BMW, campaigned hard for more time to implement the legislation, which its car industry says will still be extremely challenging.

In a reference to German lobbying, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard commented in German: "Ende gut, alles gut." (All's well that ends well.)

"I'm glad that a deal was sealed that maintains ambition," she said in a statement. She added that the industry needed planning certainty and the Commission would be working over the coming months on "ideas for a post-2020 target".

Environmental campaigners said the phase-in meant only 95 percent of new cars would meet the 95 g/km target in 2020, equating to a 3 g/km weakening of the target, but Tuesday's vote was still progress.

"The final agreement is still a good deal for the environment, EU economy and drivers – reducing fuel use and CO2 emissions," said Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at non-governmental organisation Transport & Environment.

Although the plenary session of the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg approved the draft law, members of the Green Party voted against it.

Rebecca Harms, co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament, said the weakening of the 2020 limits was "a shameful sop to German car manufacturers and will slow the development of new technologies to deliver more efficient and less polluting cars".

EU officials said they expected member states to give final endorsement over the coming weeks.

Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at the NGO Transport & Environment, said: “This one year delay to the car emissions law was an unnecessary weakening to please luxury German carmakers. Nevertheless, the final agreement is still a good deal for the environment, EU economy and drivers - reducing fuel use and CO2 emissions by 27% over 6 years.”

The NGO welcomed “the result of the European Parliament vote on new car CO2 emissions in 2020, but regrets the unnecessary weakening of the June agreement. The agreement confirmed today by the European Parliament means that the 95 gram CO2/km target will now be met one year later than planned, in 2021.”

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 set further targets of 95g for new passenger cars by 2020, and 147 g/km for vans. Germany then pressured ministers to weaken the target.

  • Council of Ministers to approve the update (no date set)

Subscribe to our newsletters