The European Parliament’s environment committee yesterday (24 April) voted through a firm carbon emissions target for Europe’s passenger cars to reach by 2020, and a ballpark figure for 2025.
But the environment committee vote, if backed later on by all EU institutions, will allow carmakers some leeway to meet their emissions reductions through the use of super credits.
A trilogue process involving all European institutions – Parliament, Council and Commission – will now fast-track the measure, which should be approved by the end of June.
From 2020, all new cars in the EU should not emit more than 95 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) and from 2025, that figure will fall to between 68 and 78g/km. A decision on the exact figure should be taken before 1 January 2017.
The Commission had wanted a decision by 2014 while the car industry had pushed for a delay until 2017. But observers saw a split-the-difference spirit of compromise in many areas of the final report, which allowed the committee to approve it by a 45-vote margin.
Reactions to the vote were split between a car industry that publicly blanches at the costs it says are involved, and environmentalists and consumer groups which welcomed the move to less polluting cars, with greater fuel economy.
"The 95g target is very good news for consumers,” said Otmar Lell, a spokesman for the Federation of German Consumers. “It will help consumers reduce their expenses. This is what consumers need these days, because fuel prices have risen a lot, and continue to rise.”
However, the automotive industry argues that increased manufacturing costs in Europe could put them at a competitive disadvantage, and further slow fleet renewal.
“The outcome of today's ENVI committee vote sends a worrying signal for the future of the industry in Europe," warned Ivan Hoda?, secretary-general of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).
"By setting unrealistic and politically-motivated long-term targets without a scientific basis, MEPs have taken a dangerous short-cut on the road to achieving the EU’s long-term climate goals," he said.
Environmentalists, though, cited the super credit provisions in the legislation as an example of how the EU had bent too far to try to accommodate industry concerns.
When toting car manufacturers CO2 fleet targets, these would allow cars emitting less than 50g/km to be counted as 3.5 passenger vehicles in 2012 and 2013, 2.5 in 2014, 1.5 in 2015 and then 1 from 2016 onwards.
The fear is that this would allow companies producing a nominal amount of electric vehicles to massively expand their production of gas-guzzlers.
Franziska Achtenberg, Greenpeace’s EU transport policy director, said that depending on how widely they were used, and over what time period, the use of super credits could increase emissions from Europe’s cars to 97.5g/km.
“MEPs have fallen into the trap set by carmakers claiming that standards can only be met if they are riddled with loopholes,” she said. “But carmakers have cried wolf before, proving themselves wrong by innovating faster than they said they could.”
ACEA contends that super-credits are needed to give industry an incentive to put clean vehicles on the market, saying only a small amount of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles would qualify. What's more, it says super-credits already exist in Japan, Korea, China and the US. "Why can't they exist here? Why do we again have to operate in a vacuum?" said Hoda? in a recent interview with EURACTIV.