Will the EP set the standards on truck emissions?

One way or another, trucks will have to cut their carbon dioxide emissions in Europe. The question is by how much.

In May, the European Commission announced the European Union’s first ever emissions standards for heavy duty vehicles, which covers both trucks and buses. Under the plans, they will produce 30% less CO2by 2030 than in 2019. The Commission also proposed an interim target of 15% by 2025 for all large trucks compared to 2019 levels.

The Commission proposal is now being reviewed by the EU’s other two legislative bodies, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The MEP dealing with the truck emissions legislation, Dutch Green Bas Eickhout, has gone even further than the Commission. In the draft report he presented to the Parliament’s Environment Committee on August 29, he called for a 25% emission cut by 2025, and a 45% cut by 2030.

Trucks account for a quarter of all road transport emissions in the EU while making up just 5% of vehicles on the road. The Commission proposals would make the EU the sixth market to regulate CO2 emissions or fuel consumption of heavy-duty vehicles, after Japan, the United States, Canada, China and India.

Europe’s auto lobby ACEA says proposals are “far too aggressive” and fail to take account of how much progress truckmakers have already made: it wants a 16% CO2 reduction between 2019 and 2030, with an intermediate target of 7% in 2025.

At the other end of the argument, environmental campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) says the targets fall short of what is needed to hit the EU’s own climate goals under the Paris Agreement, which committed the bloc to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. The Global Fuel Economy Initiative says that if the EU is to meet its Paris obligations, it must achieve a greater than 70% CO2 reduction for light-duty vehicles and close to 50% for heavy-duty vehicles by 2030.

Unusually, the Parliament has considerable sway in this policy issue. Eickhout calls for “a binding minimum share of zero- and low-emission vehicles for each manufacturer both in 2025 and in 2030”. By then, all new buses placed on the EU market should be zero-emission. “The market for zero-emission regional and urban delivery trucks is changing fast,” his report says, arguing that they should reach cost parity with diesel in Europe “within the next five years”.

Eickhout already has backing from some member states: the Netherlands, Ireland, Lithuania, and Luxembourg sent a letter to the Commission earlier this year, calling for truck emission cuts of at least 24% for 2025 and 35-45% for 2030. France has also called for “ambitious objectives” but did not give specific figures.

The intense lobbying on both sides of the argument shows how much this issue matters. Eickhout now has real power to shape the EU’s emissions standards as he addresses how heavy-duty vehicles fit in the EU’s overall climate change policy. Truckmakers, environmentalists, regulators and others will be watching the results closely.