European Union representatives have reached an agreement on binding CO2 limits for cars that could become law before the end of the year.

Member states have backed a deal based on a French proposal to gradually limit CO2 emissions to 120g/km by 2015. From 2012, 65% of new cars sold would have to average 120 g/km CO2, rising to 75% in 2013, 80% in 2014 and 100% in 2015. The European Commission had originally proposed 120g/km by 2012 for all new cars.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Environment Council (meeting 4-5 December) and the European Parliament (debate and vote 16-17 December).

The latest agreement also reduced the amount of fines that vehicle manufacturers will have to pay if they breach the limits. Between 2012 and 2018, the fine with be EUR5 per car for the first gram of CO2, EUR15 for the second gram, EUR25 for the third and EUR95 for the fourth and subsequent gram. From 2019 manufacturers will have to pay EUR85 for each gram over the target. The commission had proposed to start fines at EUR20 per exceeding gram in 2012, rising to EUR95 in 2015.

The agreement also sets a long term target of 95g CO2/km for the new car fleet by 2020.

Sue Brown