Small businesses unite for action against gas-guzzling vans

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A coalition of three small business associations has issued a call for tougher fuel economy standards to be imposed on Europe’s fume-chugging light commercial vehicles.

EU plans to set a CO2 emission limit for vans of 147 grams per km (g/km) from 2020 are “insufficient,” says a letter to the European Parliament’s rapporteur for CO2 legislation, Holger Krahmer, signed by the European Small Business Alliance, Athlon car lease, and EuroCommerce.

The standard in the EU’s proposed legislation was adopted on the basis of assumptions in 2010 that average CO2 emissions for vans were 200 g/km – and that reducing them would be highly expensive, costing €2,000-€3,000 per van.

But a study by the Dutch TNO consultancy last year for the European Commission, estimated compliance costs much lower – at around €500 per van – and that the 2010 emissions figures was overestimated by almost 20 g/km.

“The vans target could have been slightly more ambitious,” one Irish presidency source told EURACTIV. 

The three business associations go further. “On the basis of the latest scientific evidence, and given the potential benefits for both economy and environment, we therefore call on the European Parliament to set a more ambitious 2020 target of 118 g/km,” their letter says.

Road transport, which is not included within the EU’s Emissions Trading System, makes up 12% of Europe’s CO2 output, and is the only source of carbon emissions that is growing, and doing so substantially.

Greenhouse gas emissions from vans surged by 26% between 1995 and 2010 and are expected to continue spiraling upwards, according to a report by another Dutch consultancy CE Delft, commissioned by the green think tank Transport and Environment.

For delivery firms and car leasing companies, concerns about increasing fuel costs from energy inefficient vans – typically around €2,400 a year in diesel alone – are thus augmented by fears of potential emissions-limiting measures that may lurk some way down the line, such as road pricing. 

On the upstream side of the automobile sector, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) opposes any tightening of the proposed EU legislation, citing the costs of technological change, market-uptake uncertainties, and industry “cost absorption”

A parliamentary vote on the legislation is expected on 7 May.

Responding to the letter by small business groups, Holger Krahmer MEP, who is in charge of steering the legislation through the European Parliament, said "a stricter target has never been intended by the legislator".

"Article 13(1) of the regulation says that the Commission shall confirm the feasibility of the long term target," said Krahmer, a German from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) group. Therefore, he concludes that "the debate on a stricter long term target is from my point of view neither intended, nor necessary".

What's more, Krahmer argued that small businesses would not necessarily save money with a stricter CO2 target. "Running a retail business myself I know from my own experience what an important role acquisition costs and operating costs are playing. It is certainly very important for businesses to keep fuel consumption low, but it is not possible to automatically conclude from this fact how strict the ambition level in a CO2regulation for new light commercial vehicles should be."

"I am more than interested to hear from EuroCommerce or one of its members, especially small retailers, for which reasons they would agree on a stricter target, taking into account the higher initial costs when buying such a vehicle", Krahmer said.

“The 147g/km target (LCV) is achievable with available technologies by 2020. We firmly believe that the 2020 targets, 95 g/km for cars and 147 g/km for vans, 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” said Jean Marc Gales, the CEO of the European Association of Automobile Suppliers (CLEPA).

A spokeswoman for the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) referred EURACTIV to their official position on the vans legislation, which says: "The Commission's proposal to reach a fleet-average target of 147g CO2/km for vans by 2020 is extremely challenging due to the complexity of the LCV market. There is a huge diversity between the Class I, II and III vehicles. This means that there is no 'one size fits all' technological solution. It be would difficult, for instance, to use the same solution for a small pizza delivery van and a long-haul multi-axle heavy goods vehicle."

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 the current cars regulation, fleet averages to be achieved by all new cars are 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) by 2015 – with the target phased in from 2012 - and 95g/km by 2020. 

The regulation is currently undergoing amendment in order to implement the 2020 target. A White Paper on Transport, presented by the Commission in February 2011, flagged measures to raise the €1.8 trillion which the EU says is needed for infrastructure investment in the next 20 years.

Proposals published in 2012 have set a further target of 95g for new passenger cars by 2020, and 147 g/km for vans. By the end of 2014, new targets could be announced for 2025 and 2030.

  • 24 April 2013: European Parliament’s environment committee to vote on CO2 in cars proposals
  • 7 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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