STRASBOURG/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU lawmakers backed a target on Wednesday to cut carbon dioxide emissions from cars and vans by an ambitious 40 percent by 2030, drawing howls from the car industry and setting the stage for a battle with national governments.
Parties in the European Parliament tussled until the final hours before the vote on how tough to make the curbs on one of Europe’s most important industries, part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
EU lawmakers backed the target, which is more stringent than that proposed by the European Commission, by 389 to 239. They also set a 20 percent target for 2025, with the reductions based on 2021 figures.
In what came down to a clash between concerns over industry competitiveness and fighting climate change, the European carmakers’ lobby warned the target backed by lawmakers could costs jobs.
“The European Parliament is setting completely unrealistic targets. It ignores technical and economic feasibility. The targets cannot be achieved in this period of time,” Bernhard Mattes, president of German automotive association VDA, said.
He said that he industry is hoping that upcoming negotiations between the European Council, Commission and Parliament would result in decisions that are more reasonable and measured.
The EU’s new rules for the transport sector - the only one in which emissions are still rising - aim to help meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gases by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
“If we don’t make sure that Europe is able to produce clean cars within a reasonable time frame, we will not only miss our Paris Climate Change targets but the European car industry will lag behind,” said Malta’s Miriam Dalli, who shepherded the vote through the chamber.
The executive European Commission’s own draft law proposes less exacting CO2 reduction targets of 15 percent by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030 compared with 2021 levels.
Wednesday’s vote set lawmakers’ position for negotiations on the final targets with the bloc’s 28 member states, which are still debating their position.
Germany, voicing worries that more ambitious climate targets will cost jobs in its big automotive sector, has said it will back the Commission’s initial proposal. It set out its own plans on Tuesday to cut pollution from older diesel vehicles.
But other EU governments, including France, are seeking a higher target.
Volkswagen’s admission in 2015 that it had masked exhaust emissions using software in as many as 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide has galvanised EU regulators into setting tougher rules.
In response to a recent EU study that showed carmakers cheating new pollution checks, EU lawmakers added an amendment requiring figures to be verified against on-road tests.
They introduce a credit system for carmakers to encourage the rollout of electric vehicles, as well as fines for exceeding CO2 limits.
Under the plan, carmakers would be able to lower their CO2 targets by meeting a benchmark for the sale of zero- and low-emission vehicles as a share of their total new car sales.
Wednesday’s vote proposed to set these at 20 percent in 2025 and 35 percent in 2030 and added penalties for failing to meet that benchmark.
The European carmakers’ lobby (ACEA), however, warned against what it called “extremely aggressive” targets and sales quotas for electric vehicles.
“Today’s vote risks having a very negative impact on jobs across the automotive value chain,” ACEA’s head Erik Jonnaert said. “It would essentially force the industry into a dramatic transformation in record time.”
Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt; Editing by Keith Weir, Mark Potter and Kirsten Donovan