EU car-makers to make new CO2 offer

Commission threatens legislation, car-makers to make new proposal in early March

European car-makers will try to break a long-standing deadlock with EU institutions over targets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, by making new proposals for a voluntary agreement, ENDS Daily has learned from European Commission sources.

At a workshop in Strasbourg yesterday, Commission representatives made it clear to industry groups that it would propose legally binding emissions limits if the industry did not make a satisfactory offer to cut its emissions voluntarily.

Present at the meeting were EU Commissioners for transport, industry, environment and energy; UK environment minister Michael Meacher for the EU presidency, European Parliament representatives; several European and foreign car industry associations and companies; an oil industry association; and environmental groups.

The Commission stood by its position that CO2 emissions should be cut to an average of 120 grams per kilometre (g/km), with most of the progress being achieved by 2005. So far, the Association of European Car Manufacturers (ACEA) has maintained that this target is "unrealistic," and that only a reduction of around 20% on current average emission levels to 155 g/km is achievable by 2005 (ENDS Daily 18 November 1997).

EU environment ministers and the European Parliament have both backed the Commission's tough stance, and have called on it to propose binding limits if the industry does not revise its offer.

A Commission official told ENDS Daily today that it was made clear to industry that any voluntary agreement would not be expected to meet the 120g/km target on its own. Several measures would be needed, but the agreement should contribute the majority of the target.

Yesterday, the Commission hinted at some of the extra measures it is considering to complement either a voluntary agreement or binding limits. These include fiscal measures related to car fuel consumption levels and tradeable emissions permits. Another idea presented for the first time yesterday is to encourage the uptake of highly fuel efficient vehicles - with emissions of lower than 100g/km - by setting market penetration targets coupled with incentives to achieve them.

ACEA yesterday presented an analysis of the technical and marketing constraints facing achievement of the 120g/km target. It pledged to consult its members again and said it would "do its best" to make a revised offer within the next few weeks. According to a spokesman, this could involve proposing a longer timeframe for implementation.

The Commission is likely to have very little time to consider any new offer and decide whether legislation will be necessary in order to meet a mandate from environment ministers to report to them by their next meeting in March.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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