The European Parliament will vote tomorrow (Thursday, September 24) on mandatory CO2 emission standards for new cars.

The European Commission is recommending that a target of 120g CO2/km is adopted by 2012, but, following significant industry pressure, mainly from the German manufacturers, the parliament could adopt a phase-in period that would effectively postpone this to 2015, and a number of other watering down measures.

According to European environmental group, Transport & Environment (T&E), the effect of the phase-in and other proposed loopholes would amount to no more than a 139g/km target by 2015. Average emissions in 2007 were 158g/km.

The European Parliament industry committee has proposed that the standards would be phased in so that in 2012 a quarter of a manufacturer's new cars, in 2013 half, in 2014 three-quarters and in 2015 all of them would have to achieve the target of 120g CO2/km. T&E says that carmakers would be allowed to select which model would count towards compliance, which means they would only select their best models and do nothing about the worst emitters. The Institute for European Environmental Policy, IEEP, has found that even a starting manufacturer compliance level of 95% in 2012 would reduce the effectiveness of the law by about a quarter, as only a 13% cut would be required by 2012 instead of 17%, writes T&E in a press statement.

There are other mooted loopholes. Vehicle manufacturers are asking for eco-innovations to be rewarded. T&E says that the result of this is that a car with an energy-efficient air conditioning system could get a better result on paper than a car with no air conditioning.

Vehicle manufacturers are also asking that cars that can run on alternative fuels, such as biofuels, should receive a more favourable CO2 rating. This would be the case even if the cars are bi-fuel and in fact only end up running on gasoline because biofuels are not readily available.

The industry is also calling for zero emission vehicles to receive extra credit. According T&E, if these kind of "super credits" get adopted and then the industry as a whole sells only one percent of such 'zero emission vehicles', the emission target for the remaining 99 percent of the cars would be 137 g CO2/km instead of the European Commission's 130 g CO2/km.

Finally T&E is critical of plans for small car manufacturers such as Porsche and Aston Martin to get an opt-out or a lower target. T&E, which is working closely with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, believes that no carmaker should receive special treatment. The brands falling under the proposed opt-outs not only have the largest reduction potential (for example, Ferrari has already previewed its 'Millechili' concept that uses 42% less fuel than current models) but also the largest R&D budgets to make the required changes. There is also a serious risk that other carmakers will adapt their production so as to become eligible for such derogations and evade their obligations, they say.