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Transport — personal and public

European Parliament weakens car emissions targets by 40% 25.10.07

Hopes of achieving a step change in the fuel efficiency of Europe’s cars have been hampered today by a vote in the European Parliament according says Transport & Environmnet, as MEPs vote to weaken the car industry’s targets by 42%.

In a non-binding vote on a report into the future regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from cars, the Parliament said the average new car should emit no more than 125 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2015. In terms of emissions reduction per year, that target is 40% weaker than the existing EU target of 120g/km by 2012 and 20% weaker than the European Commission proposal of 130g/km by 2012 announced in February.

In 2006, the average new car sold in the EU emitted 160 g/CO2 per kilometer according to a T&E study. Reaching 120g/km by 2012 (the EU target first announced in 1994) would equate to a reduction in emissions of 4.7% per year for the next six years. In February, the European Commission recommended a target of 130g/km by 2012, equal to 3.4% per year over the same period. The European Parliament recommendation of 125g/km by 2015 equals just 2.3% per year over 9 years – 42% weaker than the existing target and 20% weaker than the Commission proposal.

According to Friends of the Earth cars are responsible for one-eighth (12.6 %) of the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions . A car’s carbon dioxide emissions are directly related to its fuel efficiency. The more fuel a car uses, the more carbon dioxide it emits.

Aat Peterse of T&E said: "Making cars more fuel efficient is one of the most important steps Europe can take to cut emissions, reduce oil dependency and cut fuel costs, yet MEPs seem to have lost their nerve. Sadly, there is an increasing disparity between what MEPs say needs to be done about climate change, and what they are prepared to actually get on and do. As the report is non-binding, it’s now up to the European Commission to ensure carmakers stick to the 13-year-old 120 target when they announce a legal proposal later this year."

Today’s move represents a u-turn by MEPs as the Parliament has repeatedly pledged its support for the long-standing 120g target by 2012. The latest pledge came in a resolution on climate change of 14 February that called for that target to be made legally-binding.

The original European Parliament resolution on climate change, 14 February 2007, stated "Stresses the urgent need to reduce CO2 emissions from cars and therefore insists that the Commission impose a binding target of 120 grams per kilometre (gpk) by 2012 for new passenger cars marketed in the European Union;"

In a positive development, the Parliament recognised the importance of longer term targets, recommending a 95g/km target by 2020. T&E believes 80g/km is feasible by that date, and essential if Europe is to achieve its long term climate objectives. A longer term view is also essential to give a clear long-term signal to the car industry.

The Parliament has also said that different classes of car should get different CO2 standards based on their ’footprint’, defined as the area between a car’s four wheels. This parameter - while not ideal - is better than a differentiation according to weight, another proposal that was in the discussion. A footprint parameter will give better incentives to vehicle downsizing and a safer car fleet than if weight had been used.

Peter Shield

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