European car firms face efficiency fines

Posted: 20 December 2007

Green groups and European car makers have reacted strongly to new legislatuon proposed by the European Commission for reducing carbon dioxide emission from new cars. These latest proposals mark the start of a formal process, which will probably run until mid 2009.

According to a draft Regulation, presented by EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas on 19 December, an average 130g/km target for car CO2 emissions will be implemented by setting laxer limits for heavier vehicles, such as SUVs and luxury models.

This concession to the powerful car lobby means that cars weighing more than two tonnes, such as the Porsche Cayenne or the Land Rover, would still be allowed to emit more than 150g/km, while emissions from lighter cars, such as Renault's Twingo, which weighs less than 900kg, would be capped at as little as 110g/km.

The proposal was heavily criticised by Friends of the Earth as"far too weak". Its transport campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:"We were hoping for tough action on greener cars from Europe this Christmas, but all we have got is the same old fudge.

"The European Commission's plans would abandon a decade-old target for cutting emissions, give companies building heavier cars a favourable deal and impose inadequate penalties on manufacturers that do not meet their targets. Europe's credibility on climate change is now at stake. Our politicians must put the safety of the planet and its people first and stand up to the self-interested lobbying of an industry that has not done enough to tackle its environmental impact."

'Unfair burden'

Friends of the Earth believes that the target should be 120g/km by 2012 from vehicle technology alone. The 120g/km target was first agreed by the EU in 1995, to be met by 2005, or 2010 at the latest. The deadline was moved back to 2012 when the voluntary agreement was reached. Now, it says, that target is in danger of being weakened still further.

Green groups are also calling for a longer-term target to be set at this stage, aiming to reduce average emissions to no more than 80g/km CO2 by 2020. This, they say, will give the industry a clear steer about the reductions it must make in the next 13 years which is critical given the length of lead times in the car industry between design and production. At the moment it is not clear whether the Commission's proposal will lay down a medium-to-long term target.

German government spokesman Thomas Steg attacked the proposals from the opposite point of view. He said they "wrong" and "harmful" as they put the burden on makers of larger cars. He added that Germany believes all carmakers in the EU should contribute to meeting CO2 reduction targets, not just German ones.

Germany's BMW declared that the plans were "naive" and would distort the market in favour of makers of smaller cars, while France's Peugeot-Citroën said the proposals were "anti-ecological, anti-social, anti-economical and anti-competitive in relation to non-European Union carmakers".

The EU automobile trade association ACEA rejected claims that the Commission's proposal is balanced, saying it will "reduce the competitive strength of the European automobile sector and put car manufacturing in the European Union at risk".

Chris Davies, the British liberal MEP in charge of steering the proposal through Parliament, warned of the risk of the Commission's proposals being watered down massively by member states before they become law, saying: "There will be a huge fight before these proposals become law but the battlelines will not be clear. The car industry will be deeply divided between potential winners and losers." He urged the EU to be "environmentally ambitious".

Note: Cars account for around 20 per cent of total European carbon-dioxide emissions and emissions from new cars average around 160 grammes of CO2 per kilometre.

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