Germany blocks CO2 deal for cars

Instead of facing stricter standards, German car industry sticks its nose in the sand. puroticorico cc by

The agreed CO2 rules for cars are threatened by demands from Germany to re-open the negotiations.

At the end of June it seemed as if a deal had been struck on CO2 rules, which would help to implement the 95g of CO2 per kilometre average emission limit for new cars by 2020. But at a formal meeting a few days later Germany refused to approve the agreement and insisted that it should be renegotiated, following a major lobbying push from the national automobile industry.

The nub of the argument is the so-called super credits for low-emission cars. It was agreed in the trialogue  deal that cars that emit less than 50 grams of CO2 per kilometre will be counted as two, but Germany wants them to be counted as three. This factor will be scaled down to 1.33 by 2023 in the original deal, but the German bid is instead 1.5.  They also want to abolish the annual cap for this accounting measure and advocate instead for it to be calculated on a four-year average.

Sales of this low-emission segment represent less than 0.6 per cent of all new cars sold in 2012, but are expected to increase rapidly in the years to come. Generous super credits may then undermine the original target by several grams.

Germany has however not acted in isolation. Several member states in eastern and central Europe, whose car industries are tightly interlinked with the German industry, have shown support, as well as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Strongly in opposition of re-opening the deal are France and Italy. These two countries have a car industry that is already more focused on light and energy-efficient vehicles. Several environmental organisations also raise severe criticism.

Greg Archer of Transport & Environment (T&E) said: “It’s unprecedented in EU environmental policymaking that the pressure of one country delays a vote in an attempt to overturn a fairly-negotiated agreement between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council itself.”

There have been no formal negotiations during the summer. The Lithuanian presidency has instead talked informally with different member states to find a way forward. To re-open the deal for new trialogue negotiations would mean a delay of several months, because the issue must once more come up for a vote in parliament. Mathias Groote, German social democrat and chair of the European Parliament Environment Committee told Sü, a German news site, about his disaffection: “We had a deal, and a deal is a deal.”

Also at the end of June the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission also reached an agreement on corresponding rules for vans. The targets for vans have been criticised for being less ambitious than those for cars. According to data from the European Environment Agency, new vans already average 180.3 grams per kilometre, close to the interim target of 175grammes of CO2 per kilometre for 2017.

This would have been the right time to raise the level of ambition, if the parties had been interested in doing so. Instead the trialogue committed to reduce emissions from the new van fleet in line with the previous target of 147 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre by 2020.

Reacting to the outcome, William Todts of T&E said: “It is disappointing that decision-makers have agreed on a vans target that is business as usual until 2020, allowing van-makers to achieve the limit at a snail’s pace.”

The more relaxed targets may have contributed to the fact that super credits were not as hot a topic in the van negotiations and the accounting measure was rejected in the final deal.
Contrary to the proposal from the parliament environment committee, the outcome did not include any post-2020 targets for vans.  Instead there was a commitment in a supporting declaration to reduce emissions for vans by 3–4 per cent between 2020 and 2025 compared to 2012 levels.

The final deal also scrapped speed limiters for vans, a measure proposed by the European Parliament, which would have cut emissions by 6 per cent according to T&E.

Kajsa Lindqvist

European Environment Agency press release 18 June 2013
Transport & Environment  press release 26 June 2013
Transport & Environment  press release 27 June 2013
How clean are Europe’s cars 2013, Transport & Environment, 2013

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