EU Commission blasts car-makers' CO2 offer

Prospect of legislation looms as industry, Commission talks flounder

Hopes of the European Commission reaching a voluntary agreement with car makers to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from cars appear to be fading following the rejection of the car industry's latest offer by the Commission.

In a report on negotiations between the Commission and the European Association of Car Manufacturers (ACEA) presented to EU environment ministers today, Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard expressed her "disappointment" at the progress made so far. "The auto industry has made a proposal for an agreement which is far away from what the Commission and Council have in mind in terms of the fuel-efficiency target," she complained.

Both the Commission and Council want car manufacturers to voluntarily agree to cut average CO2 emissions from cars to 120 grams per kilometre (g/km) by 2005. This is about half current levels and equivalent to an average fuel efficiency of 5 litres per 100 kilometres.

Since negotiations between the Commission and ACEA began over a year ago, car manufacturers have consistently described the 120g/km target as "unrealistic" (ENDS Daily 28 August). In June, ACEA presented the Commission with its own proposal - believed to be between 150-160 g/km by 2005. A Commission official told ENDS that this was "far from what the Commission, Council and Parliament want".

The Commission points the finger of blame at the car industry for failing to agree internally on what contributions each manufacturer should make in order to commit itself to the overall CO2 objective for passenger cars. "The differences between manufacturers run largely along national lines," the Commission notes in its press statement. "It is against this background that Mrs Bjerregaard has written to environment ministers...to raise the issue with their national manufacturers."

In a sign of increasing impatience with the car industry, Mrs Bjerregaard today warned that "if an agreement fails and we should decide to move towards limit values...the target sharing will no longer be decided BY the industry but FOR the industry in the EU's legislative process." The European Parliament has already called for a mandatory limit on CO2 emissions from cars of 90g/km by 2007 (ENDS Daily 27 February). And in a statement made today, Austria says this limit should be considered as a "maximum" and that should negotiations with the car industry flounder, the Commission should draw up an "obligatory directive".

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: + 32 2 295 1111; Association of European Car Manufacturers, tel: + 32 2 732 5550.

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