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EU ministers agree on 35% cut to CO2 emissions from cars by 2030

Environment ministers from European Union member states on Oct. 9 agreed to set a goal of cutting CO2 emissions from cars by 35% by 2030, moving one step closer to legislation on the divisive issue.

The European Council set its position for light vehicles at 35% based on 2021 standards, with an interim 2025 target of 15%. It is more than the 30% Germany was seeking but lower than the 40% goal favored by other EU member countries including France and the Netherlands. For vans, a more lenient target of 30% by 2030 was agreed, with the same 15% interim target by 2025.

With a compromise now reached, negotiations over a draft bill with the European Parliament can begin. The first meeting was scheduled for Oct. 10.

The automotive industry, which generates 6.8% of EU GDP, called for a softer reduction of 20%, arguing that jobs and manufacturing competitiveness would be at stake if the EU imposes measures that are much stricter than those applicable in other parts of the world. While the low- and zero-emissions technology needed to reach these targets already exists, the industry argues that the cleanest vehicles are still beyond the reach of many consumers' budgets.

"Although the CO2 reduction levels agreed on by the member states yesterday are less aggressive than those voted by the European Parliament last week, they still risk having a negative impact on industry competitiveness, auto workers and consumers alike," Erik Jonnaert, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, said in a press release.

"We now call on the three institutions to work towards a final agreement that strikes the right balance between protecting the environment and safeguarding Europe's manufacturing base — while at the same time ensuring affordable and convenient mobility for all citizens," Jonnaert added.

The industry's pleas for a more lenient CO2 cut appear to have fallen on deaf ears at the European Parliament, which was first to discuss the draft proposal drawn up by the EU's executive body, the European Commission. The commission initially proposed a 30% cut in CO2 from cars by 2030, but the Parliament voted on Oct. 3 to raise that to a more ambitious 40%. To provide an incentive for the production of low-emission cars, the draft bill proposes offering "super credits" — a calculation that double counts low- and zero-emission cars within a manufacturers' fleet, rewarding them with a more flattering CO2 emissions average.

The European Union has already scheduled a cut to maximum permissible CO2 emissions to 95 grams per kilometer in 2021, a cross-fleet average for each manufacturer, versus the current 130 grams. The new 2030 targets under discussion will be based on the 2021 level.