Green campaigners say environment committee's vote plays into the hands of carmakers.
Members of the European Parliament's environment committee voted yesterday (24 April) to make it easier for makers of larger cars to meet future limits on vehicle emissions. They voted to give carmakers the possibility of loopholes that would allow them to gain credits that bring down their average emissions.
The committee was considering legislative proposals from the European Commission that would set a limit of 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre (gCO2/km) for 2020 – measured as an average across a manufacturer's fleet. That 2020 limit would follow a 130gCO2/km limit already set for 2015.
Existing limits, with a deadline of 2015, included a so-called ‘supercredit' scheme, in which electric cars counted more towards the average emissions of a car fleet.
This credit scheme was meant to end in 2015, but the Commission, in its proposal for 2020 limits, raised the possibility of bringing supercredits back in a limited way. Carmakers could include up to 20,000 cars that emit less than 35 grams of CO2 per kilometre (effectively only electric cars). To offset the average emissions, each would be counted as the equivalent of 1.3 cars from 2020 to 2023.
Thomas Ulmer, a centre-right German MEP who is drafting the Parliament's response to the proposals, proposed that the supercredits should be prolonged from 2015 to 2020, and that the ceiling for eligible cars should be raised to 50g CO2/km. The committee voted to extend the supercredits, while adjusting how much they would count to the fleet average. VDA, the German carmakers's trade association, had been lobbying heavily for such an extension.
“MEPs have fallen into the trap set by carmakers claiming that standards can be met only if they are riddled with loopholes,” said Franziska Achterberg, a campaigner with Greenpeace. However, Achterberg welcomed the MEPs' vote to set an indicative range of 68-78 g/CO2km for a 2025 target in the current legislation. In making its proposal, the Commission had declined to indicate a target for 2025, saying it would review the situation in a few years.
The proposals have yet to be approved by the full Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
The European carmakers' industry association, ACEA, dismissed the 2025 numbers as purely political. “To simply set political figures with no scientific basis at this stage would be to act irresponsibly,” said Ivan Hodac, ACEA's secretary-general.
The committee voted to allow carmakers to use either the current mass-based methods for measuring emissions relative to a car's size, or a target based on footprint (size). Supporters of this method say that it does more to encourage carmakers to make lighter cars.
Karl-Heinz Florenz, a centre-right German MEP, said that the rules deprived the car industry of its favourite argument – that the timelines for meeting targets were too tight. Rebecca Harms, a German Green, said that the 2025 targets were “less ambitious than what is technically feasible” and would not prove an incentive for carmakers to innovate. “The EU is in effect legislating for car manufacturers to bypass their limits,” she said.