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Future Cuts in CO2 Emissions? European Car Manufacturers Meet in Brussels

December 5, 2011

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Last Friday, there was a gathering of the European Union’s car manufacturers to discuss future cuts in CO2 emissions. In 2009, the EU set legally binding fuel efficiency standards for automobile CO2 emissions at 120 grams per kilometer (g/km). A binding emissions cap will be imposed in 2012 at 130 g/km. By 2020, the European Commission has the objective of reaching 95 g/km. This ambitious objective was supposed to be supported and confirmed at last Friday’s meeting. But automakers could not reach a common position, and the issue has been left on the table.

The meeting was hosted by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). Their goal of reaching an agreement on CO2 emissions for the year 2012 was never met.

However, according to Sergio Marchionne, head of Chrysler Group and its Fiat SpA affiliate, and current president of the ACEA, “The issue was not closed because we never got to the point… There was never an ‘ask’, or a clear expression of intent to find a resolution to the question.”

Marchionne indicated that an agreement would be thrashed out at some point during his presidency and within the next 18 months.

Automakers who typically build smaller cars were less hostile to the Commission’s 2020 proposal than some of the larger manufacturers. These include Fiat, Renault, and Peugeot-Citroën.

One large automaker, Volkswagen, decried the 2020 target as a purely political decision. In a letter written to Greenpeace, which was demonstrating at the automaker meeting, Volkswagen said that it “is unable to support… any EU climate protection policy which puts jobs at risk and results in de-industrialization in Europe.”

The letter adds, the target “is not based on sound impact assessment nor on a realistic appreciation of the costs and technical progress necessary to meet the goal within the timescale.”

Despite the lack of common vision among automakers, fuel efficiency has been increasing, costs to motorists have fallen, and emissions have been reduced. The average car sold in 2011 was 4% more fuel efficient, emitted 4% less CO2, and cost 2.5% less than the average car sold in 2010.

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