Europe car strategy hits opposition

Carbon emissions from new cars could be drastically cut by 2012 under proposals unveiled by the European Commission.

Commission chiefs said the legislation would underline the EU’s determination to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and leave consumers with more money in their pockets after visiting the petrol pump.

However, the plans have run into opposition from Germany, which argued that the rules would unfairly penalise their carmakers, such as BMW and Mercedes, and environmental lobbyists who claim they are not tough enough.

If EU states back the proposals, the average CO2 emissions of new passenger cars will be reduced from about 160 grams per kilometre to 130 grams, with other measures expected to help reduce emissions to just 120 grams.

Manufacturers who fail to limit their emissions will face fines of Euro 20 for each extra gram per kilometre in 2012, rising each year to Euro 95 per gram by 2015.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: “This proposal demonstrates that the European Union is committed to being a world leader in cutting CO2 emissions and the development of a low carbon economy.

“At the same time, we are committed to promoting the competitiveness of our industry and its global technological leadership.”

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas added that the move would encourage the car industry to “invest in new technologies and actively promote eco-innovation”.

However, manufacturers would only have to reach an average of 130 grams across their fleet, allowing them the flexibility to offset gas guzzlers with low-carbon cars.

It will also set different targets based on the weight of the vehicles, allowing heavier vehicles to emit more CO2.

Jo Dings, director of the campaign group European Federation for Transport and Environment, said: “If today’s proposal becomes law, it will boost the SUV arms race in Europe, rewarding carmakers for their climate-killing strategy of making ever heavier cars.”

The proposals will now be put before the European Council and the European Parliament for debate.

Kate Martin

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