‘EU car-makers blocking emissions targets’

Europe’s motor industry is still a long way from meeting European Union (EU) targets for cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars, green transport campaigners warned.

Transport and Environment (T&E), a pan-European lobby group, accused the industry of fighting tooth and nail — with government support — to water down the proposed EU emission limits.

T&E said the top 14 car-makers in the European market still had to cut emissions by 17% to reach the EU’s 2012 target of 130 grams a kilometre.

T&E’s new study, which is based on data supplied to the European commission, provides scant evidence that European consumers are switching en masse to low-emission, more fuel-efficient cars.

But Jos Dings, T&E director, said that some manufacturers were responding to the threat of increased regulation, with German car-maker BMW cutting emissions by an average 7,3% in 2007 through its “Efficient Dynamics” programme.

“With the threat of legislation looming, BMW has shown that even premium car-makers can reduce CO2. But the slow response of most car-makers shows that the EU needs to keep up the pressure with challenging long-term CO2 targets,” Dings said.

T&E wants an emissions target of 80g/km for all new cars by 2020. Last year’s emissions were 158g/km.

In its drive to make the EU the world’s first low-carbon economy, the commission has proposed that CO2 emissions from new cars be cut to 130g/km by 2012, with a further 10g reduction to come from alternative fuels. Targets for car-makers vary according to the weight of the average vehicle produced.

Transport carbon emissions in the EU increased by 35% between 1990 and 2006 and account for 28% of all emissions, with cars responsible for half of these.

But after ferocious lobbying from the German car industry, Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a deal with French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the target reductions in car emissions to be phased in until 2015. They also agreed to water down the penalties for breaching the emissions limit.

Urging EU governments to retain the targets and penalties, Dings said: “German car-makers want CO2 targets to apply only to the cleanest cars in the early years. It’s like demanding that smoking bans should apply initially only to non-smokers.”

The T&E figures, which are the most up to date, show French groups Peugeot-Citroen and Renault closest to reaching the proposed limits but still falling 10% and 14% short respectively, with Italy’s Fiat close behind. Three Japanese firms — Nissan, Mazda and Suzuki — are among the four with the biggest gap to make up.

The T&E findings are published before debates on legislation in the European Parliament’s industry and environment committees. The auto industry lobby had drafted the amendments tabled by sympathetic members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Dings said.

Caroline Lucas, Green MEP and environment committee member, said the T&E figures were “disastrous” and accused other MEPs and governments of blocking efforts to impose more ambitious targets. —

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