EU Ministers to Reconsider Carbon Limits For Cars Following German Intervention

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By Stephen Gardner  

Oct. 7 --European Union member state environment ministers will attempt to reach agreement at an Oct. 14 meeting in Luxembourg on a regulation that could limit carbon dioxide emissions from private cars to 95 grams per kilometer (g/km, 152 grams per mile) on average starting in 2020.

The regulation, proposed by the European Commission in July 2012, was provisionally agreed to in June by negotiators from the European Parliament and the Presidency of the EU Council .

The EU Council is the institution that represents the governments of EU member states, and Ireland held the rotating Council presidency at that time.

However, the German government intervened following the provisional agreement, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that any agreement should take into account the interests of automakers balanced against the environmental objectives of the regulation.

The German intervention angered European Parliament lawmakers, who said it undermined the EU system of the Parliament and EU Council negotiating agreements on legislation prior to formal ratification by both bodies.

Because of the German intervention, the EU Council was unable to confirm its agreement to the provisional decision negotiated by Ireland, and the dossier was handed over to Lithuania, which took over the EU Council presidency July 1.

Germany Calls for 'More Flexibility.’

A German briefing document on the issue, circulated Sept. 27 among EU member state representatives and made public by the campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E), said the June agreement on the regulation should be reopened because the “issue of flexibility has not yet been sufficiently addressed.”

Instead of coming into force in 2020, the 95 g/km limit should be phased in through 2024, the German paper said. In 2020, companies should ensure that 80 percent of their fleets comply, on average, with the threshold, followed by 85 percent in 2021, 90 percent in 2022, 95 percent in 2023, and 100 percent in 2024, according to the German paper.

The phase-in of the target would allow car manufacturers to “combine the reduction target, which would remain the basis of the regulation, with the necessary flexibility in the introductory phase,” the German paper said.

The 95 g/km limit for 2020 has been proposed as a supplement to an existing regulation, under which carmakers on average must reduce carbon dioxide emissions from their vehicles to 130 g/km by 2015. In 2012, average emissions for passenger cars sold in the European Union stood at 132 g/km.

Prospects for Agreement Uncertain

T&E clean vehicles manager Greg Archer said in an Oct. 4 statement that it was “totally inexcusable and undemocratic that Germany has been able to delay the vote” to ratify the June informal agreement.

“Either [the EU Council] ratifies the deal that has been welcomed by drivers, auto suppliers, and the vast majority of EU countries, or it scuppers the plan and reopens negotiations with the [European] Parliament” on the regulation, Archer said.

Isaac Valero-Ladron, European Commission climate spokesman, said Oct. 7 that the commission wanted the original agreement on a 95 g/km limit for all cars on average in 2020 to be adhered to.

“The commission's position is clear, and we will be working to ensure that a compromise will be achieved swiftly,” Valero-Ladron said.

Jurgita Germanaviciene, a spokeswoman for the Lithuanian presidency of the EU Council, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 30 that it was unclear whether other EU member states would back the German position or would stick to the June provisional agreement.

Should EU environment ministers decide at the Oct. 14 meeting to back the German position and overturn the June informal agreement, finalization of the regulation could be delayed beyond the European elections in May 2014.

The meeting at the ministerial level follows an Oct. 4 meeting of lower-level representatives on the topic.


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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

The German briefing note on the 2020 target for carbon dioxide emissions from cars is available at