European Union governments tightened a proposed cap on carbon dioxide from cars in 2030, whittling away German resistance in a sign of heightened sensitivity across the bloc to road pollution.
EU environment ministers set a CO2-reduction target for autos of 35 percent compared with 2021 in a bid to give a stronger spur to the development of electric vehicles. Germany, which had insisted on a maximum 30 percent cut recommended by EU regulators, yielded after winning a separate concession: an interim review of the tougher rules.
The ministerial agreement after 13 hours of deliberations in Luxembourg sets the stage for immediate negotiations on a final legislative deal with the European Parliament. Last week, the assembly voted for an even steeper CO2 reduction by automakers of 40 percent in 2030.
“We are relieved,” Environment Minister Elisabeth Koestinger of Austria, current holder of the 28-nation EU’s rotating presidency, told reporters after brokering the deal among governments. “We are bringing clean transport into the passing lane. A 35 percent reduction is very ambitious.”
Europe is showing greater resolve to clean up road transport amid heightened warnings about the catastrophic environmental impact of climate cha-nge and about the economic risks of losing out to the likes of China in the technological transition to low-emission vehicles.
The result is that Germany, Europe’s top auto-manufacturing country, and the car industry have lost a degree of sway over EU environmental policies. The bloc is pushing to uphold a landmark United Nations pact to fight global warming after the US withdrew and to regain public trust in regulation of vehicle emissions following Volkswagen AG’s cheating on tests of discharges of another pollutant — smog-causing nitrogen oxides.
“Vehicle-emissions legislation needs a stick,” Stientje van Veldhoven, Dutch state secretary for infrastructure and water management, said in Luxembourg.
About 15 million autos are sold each year in the EU, with cars accounting for more than a tenth of the bloc’s releases of CO2, the main greenhouse gas blamed for rising global temperatures. Electric vehicles in Europe have a market share of around 1.5 percent.
Car-industry groups in the EU criticised the ministerial agreement, saying in emailed statements on Wednesday that it would threaten automotive jobs and consumer choice in Europe.