Covid-19: Auto industry ramps up demands for EU green support

Speeding up the transition to low carbon fuels, supporting the ‘reskilling’ of workers and reflecting the need for a ‘just transition’ feature among fresh demands made by Europe’s automotive industry to the European Commission.

Setting out a list of 25 actions to jump start the industry in light of the Covid-19 lockdown, a coalition of Brussels-based automotive groups has emphasised the need for more support for the low carbon transition. 

The EU executive can play a role in boosting demand for new vehicles by introducing tools for “targeted public procurement” and by supporting national fleet renewal schemes with EU funding, the coalition says.

The commission should also encourage the roll-out of alternative fuels and vehicle charging infrastructure - a long-held demand of the auto sector - including by preparing “ambitious” amendments to the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive by autumn 2020. That should be supported by accelerated legislative proposals that support the switch to “low carbon and low pollutant fuels”, it adds. 

While the list includes a demand to postpone “all non-essential public consultations” by two months and to “assess the impact” of the current crisis on new legislation concerning the sector - particularly related to the type approval of new vehicles, it stops short of demanding a delay to new fleet-wide CO2 emissions limits. 

The industry coalition, which includes carmaker lobby group ACEA among its signatories, had previously called for “some adjustment” to the timing of new CO2 rules, despite them receiving the backing of industry giants VW, Damiler and BMW.

An ACEA spokesperson, however, denied that the coalition had ever called for the rules to be postponed, saying it would be “premature to draw any conclusions on the impact of the crisis on this piece of legislation” until the relevant market data is released. 

Europe’s auto sector has been hammered by the global collapse in economic activity induced by governments seeking to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

The ACEA spokesperson told ENDS that the crisis “will certainly speed up the transformation of the sector” towards alternative powertrains, automation, connectivity and big data. “Therefore, swift adaptation of the labour force is more essential than ever, including massive up- and re-skilling.”

With that in mind, the coalition has called for ‘just transition’ principles and a Covid-19 recovery plan to be included in part of the EU’s skills agenda, supported by “an ambitious Horizon Europe budget to support a climate-neutral road transport system” and enhanced funding from the European Investment Bank. 

In a statement accompanying the demands, Sigrid de Vries, secretary general of coalition member CLEPA, which represents automotive suppliers, emphasised the need to invest in research and skills.

“Europe needs a strong automotive ecosystem to stay competitive and push ahead with ambitious environmental, digital and road safety targets,” she added.

Follow-up: Industry coalition’s 25 actions, press release

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