Commission car emissions proposal fails climate challenge

Press release - 19 December, 2007
In a long-awaited proposal, presented today, for curbing global warming pollution from new cars, the European Commission has relegated climate change to the back seat and granted major concessions to the car industry, said Greenpeace.

"Last week, in Bali, the European Union stood up like a lion for the world's climate - this week the Union's executive arm is going down like a lamb and putting car makers' short-term profits before our common survival," said Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace's EU transport policy campaigner.

The Commission's proposal for a new EU law endorses a short-term target for new cars in 2012 to pump out, on average, no more than 130 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometer driven. This is a weakening of the EU's original target of 120g CO2/km and the proposal fails to put forward any further reductions beyond that date. The proposal also sets out feeble penalties for offending car makers which in Greenpeace's view are unlikely to deter car companies from violating the emission standard. In addition, the full level of penalties will only be reached in 2015, which effectively postpones the implementation of the law by three years. (1)

"Car manufacturers are in the driver's seat at the European Commission," stated Achterberg. "The Commission has let car makers drive away with a proposal that sets a weak, short-term standard, lacks any longer-term targets, and offers an open road to heavy, gas-guzzling vehicles."

The Commission believes that emission requirements for new cars should be based on a car's weight. This would discourage car makers from cutting down on vehicle weight as a means to achieve CO2 emission standards. An increase in the weight of cars is a major reason why car makers failed to achieve the emission cuts they promised in an earlier voluntary agreement. (2) (3)

Greenpeace urges the European Parliament and EU Environment Ministers to resist pressure from the auto industry and strengthen the proposed regulation by:

  • restoring the 120g CO2/km standard as a fleet average by 2012, and setting a longer-term target of 80g CO2/km for the average of new cars by 2020;
  • using a car's size and not its weight as the basis for CO2 standards; (4)
  • setting effective penalties to ensure car manufacturers respect the new emission standards from the start. Greenpeace proposes that this should be €150 for each gram of carbon dioxide above the legal limit, for each vehicle sold.

"Is the Commission up to the climate challenge?" asked Achterberg. "EU leaders want ambitious cuts in emissions by 2020, yet the Commission has come up with a pathetic legislative proposal that fails to demand any significant changes from the road transport sector, whose carbon dioxide emissions are continuing to rise," she said.

Other contacts: Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU transport policy campaigner. Tel: +32 2 274 1918, Mobile: +32 498 362403

Notes: (1) Experience from the US shows that specialised carmakers, such as Mercedes and BMW, routinely fail to comply with corporate fuel economy standards and, instead, prefer to pay the low penalties. (2) The average weight of new cars sold in Europe was around 1.1 tonnes in 1995 and increased to around 1.4 tonnes in 2006, according to European Commission data used for monitoring CO2 emissions from new cars.(3) Under a voluntary agreement, Europe's car makers committed to bring back fleet average emissions from new cars to 140g CO2/km by 2008. Japanese and Korean carmakers were to reach the same level by 2009. But by 2006, average emissions had not fallen below 160g CO2/km.(4) A useful approximation for size is a car's footprint, defined as its track width multiplied by wheelbase, which is in use in the reformed US fuel economy standard for light trucks.