France introduces compulsory eco-labels for new cars

Eco-labels reflecting CO2 emissions became a legal requirement for all new cars sold in France this week as part of the country's climate change policy.

A series of seven colour-coded labels indicate CO2 emissions per kilometre of all new vehicles sold in France. The French government hopes the labelling scheme will not only inform consumers, but also pushing carmakers to improve their performance as a similar scheme for electrical equipment has successfully done.

Nelly Olin, Frence’s environment minister, said: “We have seen in recent years the effect of the eco-labelling scheme on refrigerator and washing machine sales: manufacturers have changed the products on offer and now, in general, only propose machines classed A or B.

“I am convinced that we will observe a similar effect on the vehicles offered by car manufacturers. We must avoid a drift towards cars that are too big for our towns, too polluting, like in other countries,” she said.

New French cars currently produce 152g of CO2 per kilometre on average, against an EU-wide average of 160g/km for 2005.

Despite a voluntary engagement from European carmakers to cut carbon emissions down to 140g/km by 2008-9, progress has been slow. Environmentalists have warned that the industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate and that significant reductions will never be reached without compulsory measures (see related article).

Nelly Olin backed their claims, saying that voluntary commitments from industry will not be sufficient to drive carbon emissions down. France has asked Brussels to consider other, compulsory measures to put pressure on European carmakers, she said.

The car labelling scheme is promoted on the grounds that it reduces fuel costs as well as cutting France’s energy dependence and combating climate change.

From 1 July, an “energy label” will also become compulsory for French homes.

See French Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development website for more details.

Goska Romanowicz

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