European lawmakers agreed on 10 September to boost carbon dioxide standards for cars and vans in a fight that has pitted the interests of the car industry against efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Parliament’s environment committee backed a 45% cut in CO2 emissions compared to 2021 levels by 2030, much more than the 30% reduction proposed by the European Commission, and a world away from the 20% sought by the auto industry.
MEPs also backed a midway target of a 20% cut by 2025, while the Commission wanted a 15% reduction by that year.
The auto industry warned that increasing the goals would mean job losses as companies switch away from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles.
Miriam Dalli, the Socialists and Democrats MEP who shepherded the legislation through committee, called the prospect of job cuts “the biggest elephant in the room, many times used by car manufacturers to lower the targets.” In response, she called for a fund to contribute to a transition toward zero-emission mobility.
The S&D faced resistance from the centre-right camp of the European People’s Party, the Parliament’s largest group, and the European Conservatives & Reformists. They stuck with the Commission’s proposed emissions cuts for cars, while weakening targets for vans.
MEPs agreed on higher targets for the share of low- and zero-emission vehicles in automakers’ new car sales. Carmakers would have to meet a 20% share of cleaner vehicles in 2025 and 40% in 2030. The Commission proposed 15 and 30%, respectively.
The Parliament committee also approved a provision under which carmakers missing those targets would be penalized, while those exceeding the clean car goals would be rewarded with carbon credits. The Commission proposed only an incentive scheme.
The new binding standards are part of the EU’s effort to meet its 2030 goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% from 1990 levels.
The committee “comprehensively rejected the Commission’s inadequate proposal,” green NGO Transport & Environment said in a statement, but added that even the tougher approach favored by MEPs still falls short of the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
MEPs also voted to introduce checks on whether cars comply with CO2 limits, including by introducing real-world tests from 2023 — in an effort to prevent emissions cheating by carmakers.
Monday’s position still needs to pass a vote in the European Parliament’s plenary session, expected in October.
Countries are still trying to reach a common position ahead of a meeting of environment ministers in early October, which would pave the way for negotiations with the Parliament to begin.
Adding to the problems in setting a Council position, Germany, home to Europe’s largest car industry, hasn’t staked out its stance on the file, amid a dispute between its environment and transport ministries.