The pledge by the European Car Manufacturers' Association ACEA means that cars produced by its members in 2008 should emit an average of 140 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre (g/km), compared with the 1995 new car average of 186 g/km. The 2008 target is equivalent to a fuel consumption of 5.71 litres per 100 kilometres.
According to the Commission, the deal - reached after months of negotiations - will contribute significantly to meeting the EU's climate change objectives and will also serve as a model for future voluntary agreements at EU level between regulators and industry. It said that it is working to achieve similar deals with Japanese and Korean manufacturers for vehicles exported to the EU.
The agreement with ACEA will now endorsed formally as a Commission recommendation after the Council of Ministers and European Parliament have given their views. The current package is almost certain to take effect in its present form, in part because EU governments have been closely involved in negotiations. Legislative action by the EU will only be considered now if it "becomes clear that ACEA has not honoured its commitments," the Commission says.
As well as the headline commitment of achieving an average 140 g/km CO2 by 2008, ACEA has pledged to introduce some vehicles that emit 120 g/km by 2000. This is the EU's overall target for the period 2005-2010, which it aims to achieve through the voluntary agreement plus EU fiscal measures and vehicle fuel economy labelling. In addition, ACEA is to review the situation in 2003 and may then propose further reductions in the new car average.
ACEA has welcomed the deal, describing a 25% cut in CO2 emissions as "far beyond what any other car manufacturing industry in the world has been prepared to offer". But EU environmental groups have attacked it as demonstrating an "unwillingness to take the Kyoto agreement seriously".
One group warned that the voluntary agreement would not prevent individual manufacturers "free loading" on the efforts of others. But ACEA's secretary general Camille Blum said he was confident all ACEA members would pull their weight although competition law meant it would be impossible for firms to agree a formal "burden sharing" deal on how much each should contribute.
ACEA says it has not estimated the overall cost to industry of the agreement, but Mr Blum said the goal of reducing CO2 emissions would take up the majority of the industry's research and development investment in the next few years, and the bill would total "billions of Ecu".
ACEA, tel: +32 2 732 5550; European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.
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