MEPs back fuel-efficiency plan for cars, including ‘super-credits’

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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.

Super credits

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.

Jean Marc Gales, the CEO of CLEPA, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers, said: "We welcome the vote of the EP ENVI Committee on the revision of the 2020 targets for reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars. I believe that the 95 g/km and 147 g/km targets are the best compromise between costs and CO2 emission reductions and that they will help keep the competitive advantage that the European automotive industry has in terms of CO2 emission reduction.  The retention of super credits and ecoinnovation for low emission vehicles will also boost the development of breakthrough technologies."

The European Aluminium Association sent EURACTIV a statement saying: “Today Members of the European Parliament called for the end of biased rules that is not encouraging light-weighting, one of the most efficient ways to reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles. Following  votes in the Industry and Energy (ITRE) and Transport (TRAN) Committees, the ENVI Committee members confirmed the European Parliament’s support for moving away from a purely mass-based CO2 emission rules to a technologically neutral methodology giving the manufacturers the option to choose between a mass based and a footprint (size) based target without hampering industry’s certainty and predictability. The European Aluminium Association which has been advocating for light-weighting technologies for years is very supportive of the signal given in the Parliament’s Committees. Now that the importance of footprint has been recognised we are looking forward to the upcoming Plenary vote and negotiations with the Council.”

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 have set further targets of 95g for new passenger cars by 2020, and 147 g/km for vans.

  • May 2013: European Parliament committee vote on CO2 in Vans
  • 2014: Proposed deadline for EU decision on 2025/2030 targets
  • 2015: 130 grams of CO2 per km target to be enforced across Europe
  • 2020: Proposed deadline for 95g/km target for cars
  • 2025: European Commission could impose another milestone on the road to decarbonsiation by 2050
  • 2030: European Commission could impose another milestone on the road to decarbonsiation by 2050

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