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European Parliament Backs Car CO2 Laws in Dramatic U-Turn

DPA news agency (ls)September 26, 2008

A key European Parliament committee has given its backing to strong European Union limits on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) new cars should emit in a dramatic turnaround from the expected result.

Backed-up traffic in Dortmund, Germany
"Climate triumphs over car industry" with the new regulationsImage: AP

The decision on Thursday, Sept. 26, was greeted with delight by environmental groups, with Greenpeace praising the parliament's environment committee for "warding off disaster" and Brussels-based group Transport and Environment (T&E) saying that parliamentarians had "stood up to enormous pressure" from lobbyists.

Car industry disappointed

But it was met with dismay by auto lobbies and politicians, with the association of European car manufacturers, ACEA, saying that the committee had "given the wrong signal" and "missed the opportunity to shape a realistic framework" for development.

Guenther Beckstein, conservative premier of the German state of Bavaria, which is home to major manufacturers BMW and Audi, said in a statement that "the anti-industry decision by the socialist majority in the committee endangers thousands of jobs (and) must be corrected" by the full parliament and the council of EU states.

The committee decided that car makers selling their vehicles in the EU should ensure that the average CO2 emissions of the cars they sell are no more than 120 grams per kilometer (g/km) in 2012.

Penalties for non-compliance should start at 20 euros ($29.30) per car sold and per g/km over the limit in 2012, and rise to 95 euros per g/km in 2015, they said.

Niederaussem power plant in Germany
The EU has pledged to further cut its CO2 emissions by 2020Image: DW/Arafatul Islam

And the EU should bring in a further target of 95 g/km by 2020, they decided.

Initial proposals less strict

Ahead of the meeting, committee members had been widely expected to back a compromise proposal capping penalties at 50 euros per g/km and ruling that only the most efficient 70 percent of cars should be covered in the first years of the scheme.

Environmental groups had slammed the compromise as both delaying and drastically weakening the original proposals from the European Commission, the EU's executive body.

"The cumulative effect of the loopholes outlined below would be no mandated emissions reductions by 2012, the date of the official EU target," Greenpeace, T&E and Friends of the Earth said in a joint statement ahead of the vote.

Unexpected win for the environment

But on the day, the committee voted down both of those amendments in what observers see as a severe blow to the automobile industry. "Climate triumphs over car industry!" the GUE-NGL left-wing group of the parliament declared in a statement.

The proposed law is now set to go to the parliament's plenary session on Oct. 20-23 and to the council of EU member states, with experts saying that it is likely to face another intense lobbying battle before final acceptance.

CO2 is the gas most closely linked with global warming, and experts estimate that cars alone account for 14 percent of all EU CO2 emissions.

The EU has pledged to cut its total CO2 emissions to at least 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.