Gas-guzzling car ban in the pipeline

The EU wants to regulate gas-guzzling cars out of existence by imposing binding emission caps on all new cars sold in Europe, likely to be included in a strategy due out on January 24.

The new legislation is likely to limit emissions to 120 g CO2 per kilometre by 2012, replacing voluntary goals of 140 g CO2 / km that carmakers pledged to reach by 2008 but have made little progress on (see related story).

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has repeatedly threatened to impose binding targets that would leave carmakers no choice but to invest in improved fuel efficiency, and has quoted the 120 g mark. The threats could now become reality with a strategy to be outlined next week, a spokesperson for the commissioner has said.

The industry commissioner is reported to favour a target nearer 130g CO2/km, however, and car manufacturers are strongly opposed to the idea of binding targets.

Britain’s carmakers reacted to the plans by saying that the changes would bring job losses in the sector by elevating car prices and damaging European competitiveness. The UK’s Society for Motor Manufacturers said bringing emissions down to 120 g CO2 / km would cost up to 2,500 euros for some cars. The changes would also encompass imported cars, with tax breaks to aid the transition for the industry.

But campaigners from the European Federation for Transport and Environment said carmakers have already missed one chance at making voluntary changes having argued that legislation would undermine competitiveness, and that they must now be forced to act.

“The same argument was used 10 years ago not to introduce legislation,” T&E’s Aat Peterse told edie.

“The car manufacturers were listened to then and given the chance to do it their own way under the voluntary agreement. Since then cars have grown bigger, heavier, more powerful by about 25% on average and they have only become more efficient by about 12%,” he said.

“Had cars not grown so much bigger and more powerful we would probably already have reached the target. So there is a cost to reach the target by 2012 that cost is entirely of their own making.”

Any car can be made about 20-30% more efficient with the existing technology, according to T&E. This would mean taking the average 160g CO2/km down to 120g CO2/km entirely feasible, especially given that carmakers are allowed to average out the figure over their entire production stock and all models.

Goska Romanowicz

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie