Car makers told to aim higher on CO2

Europe's car manufacturers have been warned by the European Commission that their offer to improve fuel efficiency by 10% by 2005 is not nearly good enough.

The views of the motor and oil industries, environmentalists and regulators on the future for vehicle emission control in the Community were exchanged at a conference organised by the Commission in Brussels at the end of September.

Options for curbing CO2 emissions from cars have been under discussion at EC level since last year (ENDS Report 207, p 29 ). ACEA, the car producers' European federation, has contributed by proposing to increase the fuel efficiency of new vehicles by 10% between 1993-2005.

However, the Transport and Environment Commissioner, Karel van Miert, told the Brussels conference that this was not a "particularly ambitious" target. The Commission's understanding, he said, was that "the technology exists to achieve significantly greater improvements, perhaps as high as 40%." Last November, the then UK Transport Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, also suggested that manufacturers should aim for a 40-50% improvement by 2005 (ENDS Report 202, p 5).

Europe's car makers are also expecting a new Commission proposal shortly which will require a further reduction in limits for other gaseous emissions below those which come into force next January. The new rules are expected to take effect in 1996 (ENDS Report 210, p 34 ).

The industry's concern is that a possible further round of emission reductions around the turn of the century would bring limited environmental benefit for an exponential increase in costs. ACEA claims that the 1996 rules alone will cost consumers more than 15 billion Ecu per year. Set against this is the regulators' concern that forecast increases in vehicle traffic could result in an upturn in emissions early in the next century.

At the Brussels meeting, industry representatives suggested that they should be allowed to phase in any new rules after 2000 over several years, or to average the emission limits across all their models. A major criticism of this approach is that consumers would not purchase the cleaner, but probably more expensive, models without financial incentives. However, the Commission appears sympathetic to the idea that varying emission limits could be set for different technologies so as to harness their capabilities to reduce different pollutants.

Both the motor and oil industries are also keen to set the current regulatory framework, which is based on the best available technologies for all new vehicles, in a broader perspective based on air quality criteria. The Commission was urged to define air quality standards which would assist in framing technical and other solutions to particular air quality problems, and to promote more comprehensive monitoring of air quality. The conference heard that a draft framework Directive on air quality monitoring is due to be issued in 1993.

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