Car industry wants EU to relax CO2 targets due to Covid-19

Published by Kayle Crosson on

April 2nd, 2020

The automobile industry is pushing the European Commission to relax car industry CO2 targets in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Representatives for car manufacturers, suppliers, tyre-makers and dealers wrote to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week asking for the let-up, stressing that the pandemic should justify postponing CO2 and safety laws. 

However, Brussels-based environmental organisation Transport & Environment (T&E) is arguing that the request is “currently unfounded” and that it would be “potentially damaging for the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of the car industry in Europe”. 

To date, CO2 accounts for 14 per cent of total emissions for the European Union and 70 per cent of total road transport emissions for the bloc. 

Starting on 1 January, all new passenger car sales in the EU would have be at, or below the average targets, of 95g of carbon dioxide per kilometre in a bid to reduce emissions. By 2021, all new passenger car sales would have to meet the target. 

Major EU car manufacturing brands all currently offer vehicles that are below the 95 gram per kilometre target, including the VW Polo, the Ford Fiesta and the Renault Megane. 

T&E stress that this figure reflects the produced fleet average and that as a result, “falling car sales do not automatically affect compliance”. 

The organisation also notes that the EU target is measured in CO2, not in the sale of electric vehicles. Reflecting on financial recovery efforts in 2008, T&E notes that compliance with EU environmental regulations were small and fuel-efficient cars, not electric vehicles. 

But, they go on to argue, because car manufacturers pushed an increase in the sale of high-emitting SUVs, they increased profit margins and the emissions of fleets continued to grow.  “So, electric cars are now the preferred option for compliance for many – and the best solution for the climate. 

Additionally, in order for the bloc to meet its 2020 CO2 target, EV sales in Europe would need to be around 5 per cent of all new vehicle sales.  So far, 2020 has been a record year for electric cars.

As part of recovery packages, governments the bloc-over could ensure “markets continue to move in the right direction” according to T&E, if they keep CO2 criteria in mind. 

The organisation is advocating for scrappage schemes to target fuel-inefficient fleets and reward the purchase of electric vehicles by supporting charging infrastructure. 

The purchase of smaller and lower-emitting cars should also be supported, where sales are predicted to see a considerable hit. 

“While the overall economic recovery is crucial, we shouldn’t let some opportunistic carmakers use the crisis to shamelessly roll back the EU climate targets for cars,” Julia Poliscanova of T&E said. 

“Any incentives to boost demand once normal life resumes should be targeted at zero-emissions cars. This will help keep jobs in Europe, curb pollution, and boost the competitiveness of our car industry,” she added. 

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.