EU makes historic move to cut car and van emissions

October 2018 will go down as a landmark in Europe’s path towards a climate-friendly future after both the European Parliament and EU governments voted to cut carbon dioxide emissions from cars and vans.

MEPs voted in Strasbourg on October 3 to cut car and van CO2emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to models made for 2021. These targets are more stringent than those originally recommended by the European Commission last November, which suggested cuts of 30% by 2030. But they are slightly lower than the figures initially proposed by MEPs in the Environment Committee in September, which were 45%.

“If we don’t make sure that Europe is able to produce clean cars within a reasonable time frame, we will not only miss our Paris climate change targets, but the European car industry will lag behind,” said Maltese MEP Miriam Dalli, the rapporteur who drafted the proposal.

EU Environment Ministers, who met in Luxembourg on October 9 were expected to dilute the proposals, but after 13 hours of talks they still accepted the thrust of the measures, eventually agreeing to a 35% CO2reduction for new cars by 2030, and 30% for vans.

Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) said Environment Ministers had taken, “a crucial step towards cleaner air, less imported oil and more jobs….despite an unprecedented lobby effort by the oil and car industries.”

But carmakers warned about “unrealistic targets” that flew in the face of technical and economic feasibility. European carmakers’ lobby (ACEA), said the “extremely aggressive CO2 reduction targets” would impact jobs all along the value chain. ACEA Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert warned that, “Consumers cannot be forced to buy electric cars, without the necessary infrastructure or incentives in place.”

The ministers were meeting just a day after United Nations experts issued a strong warning about the urgent need to slow global warming, saying the world was “running out of time” on climate change. That may have influenced their talks on the day, but the mood had been shifting for a while.

Compromise negotiations between MEPs and national governments have already begun on a final legislative deal that reconciles their two positions. However, the EU’s direction is clear: the car has to change.

This is not the only upcoming measure on road transport emissions: MEPs are currently scrutinising a Commission proposal from Mayto force truck makers to lower average CO2 emissions from new trucks by 15% by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

And industry is already moving. The Dieselgate emissions scandal that erupted three years ago is still affecting their credibility. Diesel, once promoted as the climate-friendly fuel, is now collapsing as a market. Most carmakers are now investing heavily in hybrid and electric technologies: Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, Toyota, and Volvo say they will account for up to half of their sales by 2025.

The decisions this month by MEPs and ministers now give this shift a clear political dimension. Europe has set a timetable, and a direction towards cleaner, greener cars and vans.