EU vehicle emissions target divides automakers and environmentalists

The European Union has agreed a target that will require carmakers to reduce the carbon emissions of new vehicles they sell in Europe by 15% in 2025, and by 37.5% in 2030 compared to 2021 levels.

The EU had originally proposed a 30% reduction rate for cars and vans, with the Parliament seeking 40%.

The deal was largely welcomed by environmental campaigners, including the NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), though concerns remain about its alignment with the Paris Agreement. Cars and vans represent nearly two thirds of transport emissions in Europe and T&E has found that the new regulation, along with the anticipated truck standard, will deliver just 38% of necessary emissions cuts. This means that national governments will have to take measures to reduce vehicle use.

‘This regulation is a good deal for citizens: reducing fuel costs for drivers, creating over 200,000 jobs and reducing our dependence on imported oil,’ says Greg Archer, Clean Vehicles Director at T&E. ‘However, carmakers’ successful scuppering of more ambitious targets means governments will now need to do a lot more at national level to bring down transport emissions.’

Meanwhile, the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA) – the industry’s largest EU lobbying group – has claimed that the target is aggressive and fails to take technological and socio-economic challenges into account. 

‘All our member companies will continue to invest in their portfolios of alternatively-powered cars and vans,’ says ACEA Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert. ‘But there are still several obstacles putting the brakes on widespread consumer acceptance, such as affordability and the lack of a sufficiently dense network of recharging and refuelling infrastructure.’

The organisation also warned that the deal would have a ‘seismic impact’ on jobs across the European automotive sector and called for policymakers to present concrete plans for a skills transition. However, the European Commission has argued that the target will help to support the long-term competitiveness of European industry and spur the necessary investment in low-carbon transport technologies. 

‘We are sending a clear political signal to the industry, investors, customers and public authorities,’ says Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič. ‘Our ultimate goal is that the best, cleanest and most competitive cars are produced in Europe, that they use the best, most modern infrastructure, and that we reduce air pollution.’

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