Carmakers have reacted cautiously to a 5% reduction in planned targets for CO2 emissions by 2030, following EU nation discussions.
Original plans, voted through by the EU, called for a 40% reduction on 2021 emission levels by 2030, a move backed by a number of nations. However, manufacturers and some countries had expressed concern over the high figure, a 10% increase on plans put forward earlier this year.
Germany, with its large automotive industry, had warned that overly challenging targets risked harming industry and jobs, and had backed the original 30% reduction figure. The country, with the backing of eastern European nations, had held a blocking minority among the 28 nations against the more ambitious targets, EU sources said.
The compromise also sees a last-minute amendment to help poorer states, allowing different accounting in countries where the current market penetration of zero- and low-emissions vehicles is less than 60% below the average in the bloc.
Figures released by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association in June show that affordability of ultra-low and zero emission vehicles remains a major barrier for many Europeans. The organisation said that 85% of all electrically-chargeable cars are sold in just six Western European countries with some of the highest GDPs.
By contrast, in countries with a GDP of less than €18,000, such as those in Central and Eastern Europe, the market share of electrically-chargeable cars remains close to zero.
Commenting on the 35% compromise, Erik Jonnaert, Secretary General ACEA said: ‘Further reducing CO2 emissions remains a top priority of the EU auto industry. All manufacturers are actively expanding and investing in their portfolios of alternatively-powered cars and vans, particularly electric ones.
‘Although the CO2 reduction levels agreed on by the member states yesterday are less aggressive than those voted by the European Parliament last week, they still risk having a negative impact on industry competitiveness, auto workers and consumers alike.’
The new figure was not welcomed by Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based lobby group. Greg Archer, clean vehicles director with T&E, said: ‘The decision by EU governments is disappointing for the planet. It shows how far the Commission and some member states have shrunk from climate leadership putting carmakers interests first despite the dire warning of the effects of dangerous climate change. But this is not over, the forthcoming negotiations with the European Parliament can still achieve an ambitious deal that puts the EU on track towards limiting warming to 1.5 degrees and is also good for jobs, cleaner air and consumers.’
Europe's Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said the compromise gained the support of 20 nations, with four voting against and four abstaining. The deal includes a 15% reduction target for cars and vans in 2025. Talks have now begun with the EU's two other law-making bodies: the European Parliament, which is seeking a more ambitious climate target, and the European Commission, which proposed a lower one, to finalise the plans.
Jonnaert concludes: ‘We now call on the three institutions to work towards a final agreement that strikes the right balance between protecting the environment and safeguarding Europe’s manufacturing base – while at the same time ensuring affordable and convenient mobility for all citizens.’