The Commission is proposing to revise the 1998 fuel quality Directive in order to require fuel suppliers to cut CO2 emissions by 1% per year on 2010 levels from 2011.
This will reduce CO2 emissions by 500 million tonnes by 2020, says the Commission.
It is also proposing to raise the maximum ethanol content of petrol from 5 to 10% – a measure long called for by the biofuels industry.
The revision also proposes to cut the polyaromatic hydrocarbon content of diesel from 11 to 8%, and confirms an existing limit of 10 parts per million on sulphur in all diesel from 2009.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called the move "one of the most important measures…the Commission needs to take to step up the fight against climate change.”
Environmental groups welcomed the proposals, but criticised delays to the Commission’s plans to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars, which had been expected alongside the revised fuel standard.
The Environment Directorate had signalled it wanted to replace a voluntary agreement with carmakers with a mandatory standard for fuel-efficiency following the industry’s failure to meet its targets. But a decision has been delayed because of disagreement within the Commission and opposition from car manufacturers.
The European Federation for Transport and Environment said the Commission had taken “one step forward and one step back” on CO2 emissions from cars. Director Jos Dings singled out the German industry, which manufactures less fuel-efficient cars than many other EU carmakers, for putting pressure on the Commission to rethink plans for mandatory targets.