EU Watering Down CO2 Emissions Targets For Cars

  • Date: 19/01/13
  • EurActiv

Tough new EU carbon dioxide emissions targets for cars are facing “dilution” due to heavy pushback from member states with strong auto-industry lobbies, such as Germany, according to an Irish presidency source, who was speaking on condition of anonymity at a press briefing on 16 January.

“A lot of member states have automotive plants and facilities, the motor industry tends to be well respected by member states, and the fact we have two German rapporteurs [in the European Parliament] may result in the commission’s proposals being diluted,” the source said, in response to a question by EurActiv.

Passenger cars account for around 12% of total EU carbon emissions and unlike other sectors covered by emissions legislation, the figure is rising.

Last year the European Commission posted plans for an industry-wide emissions limit of 95 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) per car by 2020, with a commitment to set new goals for 2025 and 2030 before the end of 2014.

The proposed legislation was well received, with Dublin calling it “extremely well-balanced”. It is now being examined by the European Parliament, which appointed its environment committee to steer the legislation through the House.

But the committee’s draft report, circulated this week, calls for softening the law’s impact on the car industry.

Its explanatory statement by Thomas Ulmer, a German Christian Democrat MEP and the dossier’s rapporteur, says that measures in a Commission cost curve to allow higher emissions by heavier vehicles do not go far enough.

“As, however, it is larger vehicles that generally play a pioneering role in vehicle technology, the rapporteur feels compelled to propose a realistic system of incentives, which will promote the development and use of new, less environmentally damaging propulsion concepts,” Ulmer states in his draft report.

Super credits

One key incentive involves expanding ‘super credits’ for low-emitting vehicles, a measure of their contribution to manufacturers’ overall CO2 fleet targets. Such credits are intended to incentivise fuel efficient vehicle production – and partially offset the assumed costs to car makers of meeting EU low carbon goals.

The current proposals would allow manufacturers to count low-carbon vehicles – such as electric cars – which emit less than 50g of CO2 per km (g/km) as 3.5 passenger vehicles in 2012 and 2013, 2.5 in 2014, 1.5 in 2015 and then 1 from 2016 onwards.

But the Ulmer report advocates inflating the technically-worded multiplier to 2.5 passenger vehicles from 2014-2017, and 2 vehicles from 2018-2020.  Ulmer also proposes a push-back of the deadline by which car manufacturers can claim super credits for low-emitting cars from 2016 to 2023.

Presidency sources expect additional proposals for the number of eligible cars in each firm’s fleet to be increased from 20,000 to 100,000.

Raised CO2 limits

Greenpeace say the report’s recommendations would effectively raise the EU’s  95g/km limit to 108g/km.

“In reality these measures are designed to allow car makers to continue business as usual in exchange for sales of a handful of clean cars,” Greenpeace’s EU transport policy spokeswoman Franziska Achterberger told EurActiv.

“It would allow them to massively overshoot the emission target,” she added.

The Ulmer report’s ideas closely mirror proposals set out in a November 2012 position paper by the German automobile manufacturers association, the VDA, which EurActiv has seen. The VDA report also calls for the EU’s super-credits multiplier to be escalated to 2.5 passenger vehicles in 2016-2017 and 2 vehicles from 2018-2020.

Current EU proposals provide “no incentive effect” for manufacturers to invest in electric vehicles, the paper says.

Banking and borrowing

Like Ulmer’s report, the VDA’s also pitches a 2023 end date for spending ‘banked’ credits from the coming period.

‘Banking and borrowing’ low carbon gains “would have the effect of making it easier for manufacturers to achieve the targets,” the presidency source said.

The idea was pioneered by the UK in negotiations over the energy efficiency directive, allowing them a claimed 60% reduction in the amount of energy savings they had to make.

The climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard spoke out firmly against such a loophole being applied to the CO2 in cars legislation at a meeting of the EU’s environment ministers last December, arguing that it would “significantly undermine” the proposals.

Most worryingly for environmentalists, the Ulmer report calls for a decision on future targets to be postponed from 2014 to 2017.

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