In Parliament >> Crying "wolf"

17th March 2011


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  • Transport ,
  • Mitigation

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IEMA

Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson in the European Parliament, argues that targets for reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles could be tougher.

MEPs and ministers have recently agreed a target for reducing CO2 emissions from light commercial vehicles. Although the outcome was a modest victory for industry lobbyists, “White van man” has no reason to be pleased. Truly tough targets for manufacturers were fended off, but the businesses that use their vehicles will end up paying more than they need.

Average emissions from new vans must not exceed 147gCO2/km (g/km) by 2016. To be fair, this will represent an improvement on current standards by about 28%, and it may be the strictest requirement in the world, but it’s some way removed from the European Commission’s original proposal for a target of 135g/km.

Manufacturers succeeded in scaling back the ambitions by claiming that vehicle purchase prices would increase. That’s a pity; we have been here before and should have known better. EU legislation to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars was thrashed out in 2008. The commission proposed a target of 120g/km by 2012 but met with a blizzard of lobbying resistance. German car manufacturers claimed that it would put 65,000 jobs at risk and £2,500 on the price of a car. The compromise eventually agreed by lawmakers set a weaker target over a longer time scale, 130g/km by 2015.

Yet since regulation was proposed a transformation has taken place. Emissions from new cars have fallen annually at the fastest rate ever. Toyota is on target to beat the EU target this year; Peugeot, Citroen and Fiat are close behind. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has admitted that it “overestimated” the difficulty in cutting admissions. They had cried “wolf” when there was no wolf.

Targets for 2020 are due to be proposed in two years’ time. Judging from the record so far, the commission can afford to raise its ambitions.

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