Fuel efficiency standards benefit economy and environment, NGO claims

Passanger cars are responsible for 12% of the EU's total CO2 emissions. [jeremyg3030/Flickr]

Ambitious new vehicle emissions targets could save European drivers €350 per year, and pay back the cost of the technology within three years, according to a new study by Transport & Environment, a green campaign group.

Campaigners have warned that the European Union is on track to miss its CO2 emissions reduction targets, unless new EU efficiency standards for all road vehicles are introduced by 2025.

Transport is Europe’s second most carbon intensive sector after energy. It produces almost a quarter of the EU’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. More than 70% of these emissions are produced by road vehicles.

William Todts, transport policy manager at Transport & Environment (T&E) said, “Our research shows one simple fact; without fuel efficiency standards for cars, vans and lorries, EU countries will struggle to meet their 2030 climate obligations.”

As part of its contribution to the UN climate change negotiations, the EU has committed to cutting its overall domestic GHG emissions to at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

>> Read: Climate negotiations reveal new alliances in the Global South

EU leaders have also made a separate commitment to cut the combined emissions of all sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, including transport, by 30% compared to 2005 levels, over the same period.

Fuel efficiency measures alone, if applied to all road vehicles by 2025, and strengthened by 2030, could deliver 42% of this cut, and bring benefits for the economy, a study by T&E showed.

The benefits of ambition

Implementing ambitious fuel efficiency and emissions standards would be good for consumers and European vehicle manufacturers.

T&E recommend adopting 2025 standards of 70g CO2/km for cars and 100g CO2/km for vans.

According to the report’s authors, the greater fuel efficiency needed to reach these targets could save drivers €350 per year.

The extra spending power this would generate would boost the economy and create up to a million new jobs.

It would also lessen the bloc’s energy dependence. The EU imports 90% of the oil it consumes, at a cost of €564 million per day. One third of this oil comes from Russia.

Since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last year, EU leaders have been keen to ween the bloc off Russian energy.

Current standards

Fuel efficiency and emissions targets for cars and vans sold in the EU have already helped achieve year on year emissions cuts in the transport sector since 2007.

The 2017 emissions target for vans of 175g CO2/km was achieved three years ahead of schedule. Since monitoring of car emissions began in 2010, per kilometre CO2 emissions from new cars have fallen by 12%, to 123.4g.

>> Read: Germany and UK left behind, as EU beats transport emissions target

The Transport & Environment report argues that the early implementation of new, stricter standards is vital. This will allow for the fact that many EU countries, like Poland and Lithuania, have a far larger market for used vehicles than new vehicles.

It would take around ten years for increased fuel efficiency standards to have a significant effect in these countries.

Lorries are not currently subject to efficiency and emissions targets. According to the report, continued inaction on trucks would cause their emissions to further increase (or at best remain stable) by 2030, and the EU to fall short on its international commitments.

Pressure from industry lobbies

ACEA, the association representing the interests of car, van and lorry makers in Europe, is urging the European Commission to proceed with caution on new fuel efficiency standards for cars and vans.

The CEO of Renault and ACEA President, Carlos Ghosn, said, “We must make sure that ambitious climate change policies do not conflict with the need to protect jobs and growth in Europe.”

Manufacturers already succeeded in delaying EU efficiency legislation for lorries in 2014, saying they needed more time to develop new designs.

William Todts said, “The reality is that transport is now Europe’s biggest climate problem. Burying the single most effective instrument we have to tackle vehicle emissions until after 2030 would be foolish.”

>> Read: EU truck safety and efficiency law faces delay until 2019

The transport sector has the second biggest greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, after the energy sector. Road transport alone accounts for about one fifth of the EU’s CO2 emissions.

Transport emissions peaked in 2007, and in 2011 the EU set the target of cutting CO2 emissions from transport by 60% compared to 1990 levels.

Passenger cars 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.

The Cars Regulation set the average fleet emissions to be achieved by all new cars at 130 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) by 2015 – with the target phased in from 2012.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Cars and CO2

Proposals published in 2012 set further targets of 95g for new passenger cars by 2020, and 147 g/km for vans.

>> Read: MEPs back fuel-efficiency plan for cars, including 'super-credits'

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