EEB fires broadside against EU car CO2 deal

Environmental group launches pre-emptive strike against wider use of voluntary agreements

Environmental group the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) today criticised the EU's landmark deal with car makers on reducing vehicle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The voluntary agreement has "dubious legal quality," is not ambitious enough, was agreed in an undemocratic manner and is unenforceable, the group said. It urged consideration of alternative approaches to cutting vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and to the use of voluntary agreements for environmental objectives.

Agreed with European car manufacturing association Acea in 1998 (ENDS Daily 6 October 1998) and then with Japanese and Korean firms in 1999, the deal commits the industry to cut average emissions from new passenger cars by 25% by 2008-9 compared with 1995 levels. A first progress report recently issued by the European Commission showed that cuts are being made, but not fast enough to meet the target without an acceleration in coming years (ENDS Daily 6 October 2000).

Long sceptical of voluntary agreements in the environmental arena, the EEB's report anticipates an expected proposal from the Commission to create a legal framework for future deals like the one with Acea. "Voluntary agreements are fashionable, but our study raises serious doubts as to whether they work at EU level and whether they are being applied appropriately," said the EEB's head, John Hontelez.

The group's report levels a series of detailed criticisms at the deal. Industry could too easily excuse itself from the commitment, it alleges. Since the EU has no back-up plan in store, the deal is effectively unenforceable: the Commission could bring forward legislation should the agreement fail, but agreement would be unlikely before around 2010.

Other criticisms include an excessive focus on petrol/diesel engines - the agreement "will do little" to encourage alternative technologies or fuels, the EEB says. It also reckons that emission cuts by the deadline will be less than is generally expected, even if the targets are reached. A serious gap in the agreement is the lack of any additional targets beyond 2012, it adds.

The EU should search for alternatives to the Acea agreement, according to the report's author, Sarah Keay-Bright. After reviewing increased taxation or binding legislation on CO2 emissions, she recommends a tradable quota scheme. Under this, every citizen of a country would be entitled to carbon units, which could be sold on a national market, while organisations would have to purchase units through an auction system.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1095, and press release.

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