The European Parliament of the EU has voted by a large majority for legislation to cap average emissions from all new cars in the EU at 125g/km by 2015.

That gives vehicle makers more time than previous proposals (which were for 2012 rather than 2015) but it is also a tighter CO2 figure (was 130g/km, now 125g/km).

The industry's current average emissions are about 160 g/km.

During the debate in Strasbourg yesterday MEP Chris Davies said: "Emission reductions must be made a priority for car makers, but they have to be achieved at the lowest possible expense. That means giving industry specific targets and sufficient time to make the changes. These improvements may increase the price of new cars, but then reduced emissions mean improved fuel economy.
 
"The car industry is supposed to be drawing up a voluntary code of advertising conduct but we have had our fingers burnt through voluntary codes and any such measure should be regarded with suspicion. It is time that advertisements give consumers more details of the fuel economy and emission performance of the vehicles on sale. This information should be upfront and not buried away in the small print. We need to encourage car makers to compete on the basis that their cars are safe and stylish and environmentally-friendly."
 
Aligning themselves with the European Commission's position, MEPs insisted that "average emissions from all passenger cars placed on the EU market in 2015 do not exceed 125g CO2/km".  (Taking account of the automobile industry's development and production cycles, MEPs decided to move away from an earlier proposal to introduce such a cap as of 1 January 2012). At the same time, the EP backed plans to compel car makers to meet these targets by "technical means alone" -- i.e., without relying on other CO2 saving measures, such as biofuels, special tyres, or improvements in air-conditioning systems.
 
As of 2020, reads the report, such average emissions should not exceed 95g CO2/km. Long-term targets, urge MEPs, should be determined by no later than 2016: these targets "will possibly require further emissions reductions to 70g CO2/km or less by 2025".

Recognising, however, the difficulties that some specialist manufacturers may have in reducing average emissions across the limited range of cars they produce, members "stress the importance of allowing particular vehicles to exceed emission limits to avoid excessive disruptions to the car market. To that end, they also propose that each manufacturer have the right "to exclude 500 identified vehicles annually from inclusion in the data used to determine average emissions".
 
Finally, the report proposes the introduction -- in 2011 -- of a "Carbon Allowance Reductions System (CARS)", a market mechanism through which carmakers would have to pay penalties for exceeding the emissions limits. Such penalties, notes the text, "may be offset by redeemable credits awarded to newly registered passenger cars" (of the same manufacturer) whose emissions fall below the limit values.

As expected, the European automobile manufacturers' association, ACEA, has issued a lukewarm response.

ACEA welcomed the 'recognition by the European Parliament that the car industry needs sufficient lead-time to adjust to new legal requirements'.

However, ACEA said the Parliament's report 'fails to call for a comprehensive, cost-effective approach towards reducing CO2 emissions from cars and clings to car technology targets that are too stringent.'

"The European car industry urges the EU institutions to adopt a comprehensive, integrated approach based on a transparent and thorough impact assessment, following the principles of better regulation," said Ivan Hodac, Secretary General of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) in Brussels.

ACEA maintains that an integrated approach - combining new car technology with the increased use of biofuels, adjustments of infrastructure, a more economical driving style and CO2-related taxation - larger gains can be achieved for the environment, whilst safeguarding investments and employment levels in Europe.

"The upcoming CO2 legislation is not likely to be adopted before 2009. In the meantime, the car industry will continue to introduce further CO2-reducing solutions. But, as the European Parliament has recognised, specific legislative requirements need to be known long ahead to adjust manufacturing processes," said Hodac.

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