Call for long-term CO2 targets

Eighteen years after this issue was published, only 14,000 electric cars were sold in the EU. Photo: jurvetson/ BY

The European Parliament Environment Committee has proposed a 120kph speed limit for vans from 2014 and 2025 CO2 targets for both cars and vans.

There is a need for a 2025 target for carbon dioxide emissions from cars by 2017, says the European Parliament’s Environment Committee in its response on 24 April to the European Commission’s proposed rules to achieve the 2020 targets. The target should be in the range 68 to 78 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, which would mean a reduction of about a quarter compared to the 2020 target, which is 95 g/km.

Franziska Achterberg from Greenpeace welcomed the proposal to soon adopt a target for 2025, but considers that the proposed range is not low enough: “This timeline would give carmakers enough time to clean up their act. But the range they indicate is still too high to truly drive investments in technological innovation. Greenpeace is calling for a target of no more than 60 grams of CO2 per kilometre in 2025.”

The committee also supported improvements to the standard for how cars are tested. Recent studies show that car manufacturer statements on CO2 emissions exaggerate real-world driving situations by up to 23 per cent.

Moreover, the Environment Committee backed a super-credit scheme, under which cars that emit less than 50 grams per kilometre will count as 1.5 cars in 2016–2023. This proposal is more generous than the one put forward by the European Commission, in which cars that emit less than 35 grams per kilometre will count as 1.3 cars in 2020–2023.

Consumer and environmental groups criticise these types of super-credit schemes for being loopholes for car manufactures.

However, environmental groups together with the aluminium industry welcomed the Environment Committee’s support for abandoning the weight-based model that has been used so far for the CO2 targets and instead moving to a footprint-based model in a post-2020 regulation.

Two weeks later, on 7 May, the Environment Committee submitted its response to the corresponding draft regulation for vans. Similarly to cars they urge the Commission to propose targets for 2025 that should be set by 2017 in the range of 105–120 g/km. That represents a tightening of the existing 147 g/km target for 2020 by 18–28 per cent.

The target for vans has been criticised for not being as ambitious as the one for cars and therefore risking that carmakers will reclassify big cars as vans. Under the parliament’s proposal there is a risk that the unbalanced relationship between the targets will persist.

William Todts from Transport & Environment: “The proposed 2025 target range is a step forward but needs to be more ambitious. The technologies used in cars and vans are very similar and targets should also be equivalent.”

Unlike the Commission, the Environment Committee wants a super-credit scheme for vans that follows the same model as for cars. This would apply for the years 2018–2023. The committee also supported amendments to improve the testing procedure for vans along the same lines as they did for cars two weeks earlier.

The committee also wants a 120 kph speed limit for vans from 2014. Capping van speed will encourage the supply of smaller engines, reducing average van fuel consumption and emissions by at least six per cent, according to Transport & Environment, which also highlights the fact that vans are the only type of commercial vehicle without speed limits today.

The proposed regulations for vans and cars will be negotiated in trialogue in the coming weeks with expected final outcomes by the end of June.

In the week in between the Environment Committee’s two meetings, the European Environment Agency released figures showing the effect of the present CO2 targets for cars that are being phased in. The average car sold in the EU in 2012 emitted 132.2 grams of CO2 per kilometre. That is a 2.6 per cent decrease compared to 2011, which is less than between 2010 and 2011 when emissions fell by 3.3 per cent.

Cars with the lowest average emissions were sold in Denmark (117 g/km) and in Portugal (118 g/km). The largest improvements in efficiency were in Greece (9%) and in Denmark (6%). Improvements in efficiency occurred in almost all EU countries, except Hungary and Belgium. The countries with the highest average emissions were Latvia (152 g/km) and Estonia (150 g/km).

Out of the 12 million new cars sold in the whole of EU in 2012, only 14,000 were electric vehicles. That is however a great increase compared to 2010 when sales reached only around 700. Most of the electric cars were sold in France (more than 5500 vehicles) and Germany (almost 3000 vehicles).

Car sales in general have fallen in the EU since the peak year 2007, when 15.5 million vehicles were registered. The greatest decrease in new car registrations in 2012 was not surprisingly in countries struggling with economic difficulties: Greece (-41%), Portugal (-38%) and Cyprus (-25%). Estonia and Hungary had on the contrary an increase in sales of more than 12 per cent.

Kajsa Lindqvist

Sources: ENDS Europe Daily 24 April and 7 May 2013, and EEA press release 30 April 2013

In this issue