European Commission’s automotive plan stalls on CO2

The European Commission's recently published Cars 2020 Action Plan, which aims for a competitive and sustainable automotive industry, fails to address key strategic challenges such as climate change, says sustainable transport campaigners, Transport & Environment (T&E).

Released yesterday, the Commission’s report neglects a strategy to reduce emissions from lorries, while proposals to reduce air pollution emissions from cars are also being delayed, says T&E.

According to the campaigners, planned legislation to improve van efficiency was “being parked” due to weak car sales in parts of Europe and communication on setting fuel economy targets for cars and vans after 2020 has also been held back, it added.

In its report, the Commission claims that over past months, the European automotive industry has been facing an increasingly difficult period, with the EU market for new cars declining for the fifth consecutive year.

“This situation creates a strong pressure on some companies to restructure their operations, and several manufacturers have recently announced closures of assembly plants with consequent job losses” it added.

Programme manager of Clean Vehicles for T&E, Greg Archer, said: “The future competitiveness of the European car industry depends upon its ability to respond to global strategic challenges like climate change. This 2020 action plan fails to adequately respond to this challenge. Smart, green regulation has driven innovation in the European automotive industry and contributed to its global leadership.

“Delaying and weakening regulations to improve fuel economy puts that competitive advantage at risk. The European motor industry needs to continue to innovate and develop cleaner, more efficient vehicles. It is what their customers deserve and what the planet needs”, he added.

Responding to the commissions claims that the motor industry is in crisis, T&E said car production in Europe grew by 5% to nearly 16 million vehicles in 2011, which is close to past levels. It added that this growth is fuelled by strong exports.

“The industry constantly argues it needs long lead times to respond to regulations. That is why we should be agreeing fuel economy standards for 2025 now. Without long-term targets carmakers will reduce investment in developing low carbon vehicles”, said Archer.

“That will provide an opportunity for their competitors in emerging economies to catch up. This is bad for the long-term competitiveness of the automotive industry in Europe; bad for drivers fuel bills and bad for the environment”, he added.

Leigh Stringer

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