The EU directive on carbon dioxide emissions from cars has been revised, but an environmental lobby group said “precious little will change in the short term”.

Environmental non-government group Transport and Environment (T&E) reacted angrily, describing the deal as “a continuation of the mediocre progress we have seen over the last decade, and no incentives for the technology transformation that is so desperately needed”.

“The car producing countries of Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Sweden have all played a role, by defending the specific interests of their national industries – Germany to delay implementation of the short-term targets, and weaken language on the long-term targets; Italy to win major concessions on fines; the UK for special protection for its high-consuming luxury car brands and Sweden to guarantee special treatment for its flex-fuel cars.

“The French presidency was in the end responsible for giving away loopholes to every country that asked. The attempts of other countries to stand-up in the broader public interest have sadly failed,” said T&E director Jos Dings in a statement.

“The story of this law is the story of special interests in industry and national governments preserving the status quo, at the expense of R&D firms, parts suppliers, car drivers and all those hit by the wider impacts of climate change and higher oil prices,” he added.

Representatives of national governments and MEPs agreed earlier this month to force the 130g of CO2 per kilometre limit on 65% of new cars from 2012, 75% from 2013, 80% from 2014 and all by 2015. But with various ‘loopholes’, the target for new cars for 2015 is in effect around 140g/km, T&E said.

The deal agreed also includes reduced penalties for non-compliance and a reviewable target for 2020.

The Commission had proposed penalties starting at EUR20 for every g/km above the limits, rising to EUR95. Following strong pressure from the Italian government, the starting level has been reduced to EUR5. A target of 95g/km has been set for 2020 but this depends on an impact assessment and review by 2013, which many fear will lead to another round of diluted targets similar to the round just ending.

Car manufacturers will be allowed to count certain ‘eco-innovations’ as part of their emissions reduction, to which environmental groups were strongly opposed.