Europe declares greenhouse limit for cars
Compromise plan follows tussle between environmental and industrial lobbies.
After two weeks of wrangling, European politicians have proposed new limits for greenhouse gas emissions from cars in the European Union. Under the new plan, cars sold in the 27-nation European Union after 2012 will be allowed to emit a maximum of 130 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.
The proposal, which has not yet been officially approved, represents a compromise between Europe's environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, who had proposed a limit of 120 grams per kilometre, and industry commissioner Günter Verheugen, who claimed that such a move would damage Europe's car manufacturers.
The plan replaces an unsuccessful voluntary agreement between European, Japanese and Korean car firms to cap emissions at 140 grams per kilometre. Currently, average emissions stand at 163 grams per kilometre.
European politicians had pledged to tackle the problem because emissions from road traffic in Europe rose by 26% between 1990 and 2004, hampering efforts to reduce total greenhouse emissions, which overall fell by 5% during that period. Today, passenger cars alone count for 12% of Europe's carbon dioxide emissions.
The proposal includes extra measures to reach the original 120-gram target by promoting biofuel use, more efficient air conditioning, and modifications to tyres. These measures should provide cuts that will not have to be paid for directly by manufacturers, Verheugen said yesterday. But consumer advocates fear that the overall proposal could add almost 3,800 euros (US$4,900) to the price of the average new car.
Meanwhile, green lobbyists have criticized the European Commission for pandering to the automobile industry.
"Today's decision is deeply disappointing, and calls into serious question the Commission's commitment to addressing climate change," said Caroline Lucas, a member of the European Parliament representing the Green Party. "Here we see it falling at the first hurdle."
The European Commission is set to consider the proposal, including penalties for failing to meet the new target, later this year.