EMPs hold heated debate on reducing CO2 emissions

Debates on 18 and 19 February at the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment (ENVI) on the revision of regulations on the reduction of CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light-duty vehicles focused on the same questions for both types of vehicles. Should long-term targets be revised immediately? Should incentives for investments in new technologies (rebate system or super-credits) be prolonged and if so under what conditions? Should new test cycles be developed?

Many MEPs mentioned the déjà vu aspect of the debate, as the main arguments made were the same as those set out two years ago when the basic regulation was adopted.

The two rapporteurs – Thomas Ulmer (EPP, Germany – passenger cars) and Holger Krahmer (ALDE, Germany – light-duty vehicles) are overall on the same wavelength on these three points.

The 2020 targets were set in 2011, barely two years ago. So 2014 is too soon to revise them, they say. Ulmer and Krahmer pointed out that the industry needs consistency and predictability. They added that it takes around ten years to develop new models and engine technologies. They therefore recommend, as proposed by the Commission, confirmation of the targets for 2020 (95 g CO2/km for passenger cars and 147 g CO2/km for light-duty vehicles), and postponement until 31 December 2017 (cars) and 1 January 2018 (vans or light-duty vehicles) at the earliest (instead of 2014) of the introduction of post-2020 targets.

Both also call for maintaining (cars) or introducing (light-duty vehicles) the super-credits mechanism as a financial incentive. This involves premiums granted in terms of average emissions from low-emission vehicles. Set up by Regulation EU 510/2011 (reduction of emissions from passenger cars), the bonus is calculated by counting each vehicle that emits less than 50 g CO2/km or with autonomy to cover 40 km when running purely on electricity as equivalent to a certain number of “normal” cars. The bonus applies to the manufacturer’s entire fleet. This scheme will end in principle in 2018. For the rapporteurs, this is an important tool that stimulates the placing on the market of low-emission vehicles (hybrid and/or electric).

On the test cycles, the rapporteurs note that this new globally harmonised test cycle for passenger cars and light-duty vehicles (world light duty test procedure or WLTP), set to replace the European NEDC system in 2014, is not ready yet. “If the WLTP is not fully defined and operational on 31 December 2017, the new targets should be defined in accordance with the test cycle in place on that date,” according to Krahmer. For Ulmer, whatever happens, the WLTP procedure will replace current test procedures no later than 2021 and the targets will have to be adapted then. Industry must not be punished

“There is no question in this debate of sanctioning or punishing the European automotive industry but of helping it deal with the technological challenge”, said Jo Leinen (S&D, Germany), after several fellow MEPs spoke of the industry being “penalised” if targets are made tougher or bonuses eliminated. He noted that the voluntary agreements and targets concluded with the industry in 2008 had no real impact and that the same objections and concerns being raised today were raised back in 2008 with regard to the values proposed then. Yet, once these targets are made mandatory, not only did manufacturers meet them, but in some cases even surpassed them. Leinen therefore supports the early adoption of very strict targets for after 2020.

Chris Davies (ALDE, UK) and Rebecca Harms (Greens-EFA, Germany) mentioned the targets of 70 g CO2/km, or even 60 g CO2/km for cars by 2025: this is possible and can be discussed, said Harms. The EPP tends to find that targets of 95 g CO2/km and 147 g CO2/km are already very ambitious. There is no question of adding to the burden on enterprises during this crisis period, they note, warning against any measure that would undermine the European industry’s ability to compete.

For other MEPs, certain amendments proposed by the rapporteurs, such as the extension of exemptions granted to “niche” sectors (defined as manufacturing fewer than 1,000 cars per year, rather than fewer than 500) or the prolongation and extension of the super-credit system, will de facto weaken the targets and increase the period needed to reach them from three to four years. This is “unacceptable” to Carl Schlyter (Greens-EFA, Sweden), who said that if Europe really wants to encourage innovation, much stricter standards have to be set.

Some MEPs noted that only technological progress would enable European manufacturers to compete with their American and Asian rivals, including Chinese firms. Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP, Germany) commented that, although he was one of the keenest proponents of the super-credit system, his enthusiasm has waned since due to excess. He finds that it offers good support for innovation and the marketing of greener models but that the system should be limited in terms of both conditions and duration.

Source: Europolitics


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