EU car manufacturers sold cars that produce on average 160 grams of CO2 per kilometre in 2005, down only 1% on the previous year, according to green NGO Transport and Environment (T&E). Back in 1998, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) promised the European Commission to reach average emissions of 140 grams of CO2 per kilometre for new cars by 2008. Japanese and Korean makers, represented by JAMA and KAMA, agreed on the same target by 2009.

The EU target, agreed by heads of states and governments, is to reach an average CO2 emission figure of 120 g/km for all new passenger cars by 2010.

Car sales figures analysed by T&E show that the EU car industry will "almost certainly" fall short of its voluntary commitment to cut CO2 emissions and reduce consumers' fuel bill as oil prices hit record levels.

T&E says manufacturers would need to cut CO2 by an unprecedented 4.3% every year for the next three years if they are to meet their voluntary commitment to reduce emissions from new cars to an average 140 grams/km by 2008. It claims the European Commission even "informally postponed" its target date to reduce CO2 emission to 120 g/km by 2012. Progress by car manufacturers in meeting their voluntary commitment is monitored on a yearly basis by the Commission.

Last year, the Commission already noted that the pace in reducing emissions was below the 2% average per annum needed to meet the target (EurActiv 24 June 2005). Positions: "Rules that make cars more fuel efficient save lots of money," says T&E Director Jos Dings.

"Meeting the EU target would result in twenty-five per cent lower fuel bills. At today's prices that would mean a € 1,000 saving for the average car over three years," Dings says.

Contacted by EurActiv, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) declined to comment on the T&E figures as it said they still need to be confronted against the official ones.

ACEA communications director Alfredo Filippone indicated that since 2003, CO2 emission figures are provided by the member states. Beforehand, it used to be the manufacturers themselves, he indicated. Last year, the World Resources Institute (WRI) further criticised ACEA, saying European car companies were not fully disclosing their strategies to comply with the voluntary agreement on CO2 reduction.

"The problem with the ACEA Agreement is that nobody knows what the auto companies are planning to do to bring the industry to its 2008 target," said WRI's Amanda Sauer.