7 February 2007

The European Commission proposed a new strategy to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars and vans sold in the European Union. Under the proposal, the new cars fleet will have to meet a 130 g/km average CO2 emission limit, by means of engine and vehicle technology, by 2012. A 120 g/km emission target would be met by a combination of other means, such as by using biofuels.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas originally intended to legislate a 120 g/km limit, but was forced to compromise due to a strong opposition from the German car industry and from the Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen. The regulation will stimulate the development of new powertrain technologies, such as diesel hybrids, but the associated costs could add thousands of euros to car prices, fears the automotive industry. The CO2 emission legislation is necessary to ensure the EU meets its greenhouse gas emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol and beyond, said the Commission.

The main measures of the proposed strategy are as follows:

  • Average emissions from new cars sold in the EU-27 would be required to reach the 120 g CO2/km target by 2012. Improvements in vehicle technology would have to reduce average emissions to no more than 130 g/km, while complementary measures would contribute a further emissions cut of up to 10 g/km, thus reducing overall emissions to 120 g/km. These complementary measures include efficiency improvements for car components with the highest impact on fuel consumption, such as tires and air conditioning systems, and a gradual reduction in the carbon content of road fuels, such as through greater use of biofuels.
  • For vans, the fleet average emission targets would be 175 g by 2012 and 160 g by 2015, compared with 201 g in 2002.
  • Support for research efforts aimed at further reducing emissions from new cars to an average of 95 g CO2/km by 2020.
  • Measures to promote the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles, notably through improved labelling and by encouraging Member States that levy car taxes to base them on cars’ CO2 emissions.

The above average CO2 emission targets would apply to the industry as a whole, not to each individual manufacturer. A legislative framework to reduce CO2 emissions will be proposed by the Commission by the end of this year or at the latest by mid 2008.

The current EU strategy for reducing CO2 emissions from cars is based on voluntary commitments by the car industry. Under the voluntary commitments, European manufacturers have said they will reduce average emissions from their new cars to 140 g CO2/km by 2008, while the Japanese and Korean industries will do so by 2009. However, the strategy has brought only limited progress towards achieving the target of 120 g CO2/km by 2012, said the Commission. From 1995 to 2004 average emissions from new cars sold in the EU-15 fell from 186 g CO2/km to 163 g CO2/km.

The Commission’s proposal is set out in a Communication addressed to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The Commission will implement the strategy based on the responses from the Parliament and the Council, and after a consultation with stakeholders.

Road transport generates about 20% of the EU’s CO2 emissions, with passenger cars responsible for around 12%. In spite of the progress in vehicle technology and improved fuel efficiency, emissions from cars continue to grow due to increases in traffic and car size. While the EU-25 reduced overall emissions of greenhouse gases by almost 5% between 1990 and 2004, CO2 emissions from road transport rose by 26%.

The 120 g/km emission target corresponds to fuel consumption of 4.5 l/100 km for diesel cars and 5 l/100 km for gasoline cars.

Source: European Commission