The European Commission had been expected to deliver a proposal on reducing CO2 emissions from cars tomorrow, in connection with a wider proposal on a regulatory framework for the automotive industry in connection with the CARS21 research work. However disagreement between the Environment Commission and the industry commissioner on whether CO2 emissions limits should be binding or not, has resulted in a delay.

Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas had been expected to call for a binding cap on emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide by motor vehicles because the motor industry is failing to meet voluntary targets agreed with the European Union executive, but industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen has been arguing that this is at odds with his proposal in connection with CARS21.

The CARS21 (Competitive Automotive Regulatory System for the 21st Century) report, published last year, pointed to the effect that inconsistent and conflicting regulatory objectives were having on European competitiveness. It called for an integrated approach to CO2 reduction as the most cost-effective way to reduce CO2 emissions, whilst at the same time safeguarding competitiveness in Europe.

Verheugen was widely quoted in press reports as saying that legislation on CO2 and cars is an option. However he noted that there will be a long delay between the commission adopting a proposal and it becoming legislation, because the proposal would need to be commented on by member states first.

The environment and industry directorates are likely to seek a consensus before putting their proposals before the European Commission, to be adopted as a commission proposal, at a weekly Wednesday meeting. This could take one week or several weeks, but it does seem that the two parties are miles apart at the moment.

The bio-fuels directive has also been affected by the delay.

Susan Brown