Automakers trading cars in the EU may face tougher CO2 emissions reduction targets after the European Commission signalled it will review goals already set for 2030.

The Commission will propose to revise by June 2021 legislation on CO2 emission standards for cars and vans “to ensure a clear pathway from 2025 onwards towards zero-emission mobility,” it said in a document called the European Green Deal.

In April, the European Union passed legislation that mandates automakers selling cars in Europe to cut their average fleet CO2 emissions by 37.5 per cent by 2030 to 60 grams per km relative to a 2021 baseline of 95 g/km. In 2018, emissions from new cars increased for the consecutive second year, rising to 120.4 g/km.

The new European Commission presented its long-term roadmap for a climate-neutral EU economy on Wednesday. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has put climate action at the top of her legislative agenda for the next five years.

“The Commission is within its mandate to propose a new target, but any such step would come with the requisite economic impact assessment and require approval from the EU Parliament and EU Council to enter into legislation,” a Commission spokeswoman said.

She declined to comment on whether a 15 per cent intermediate CO2 emissions reduction target for 2025 could also be reviewed.

The emissions reduction targets are part of the EU’s commitment to tackle climate change by moving to carbon neutrality by 2050. As a result, it is not uncommon for Brussels to re-evaluate whether targets were proving effective for achieving policy goals, and adjust them where necessary, the spokeswoman said.

The guidelines will push automakers to invest even more heavily in electric cars to avoid fines from the EU for missing targets. Sales of full-electric and plug-in hybrid cars are expected to grow 35 per cent in the first nine months of 2020, a rate far higher than China and North America, according to BloombergNEF.

The Commission said it would consider including road transport in the European emissions trading scheme (ETS) already used by energy-intensive industries such as utilities, and steel and cement producers as a further tool to reduce CO2 output.

Road transport accounts for one-fifth of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions and its CO2 footprint has grown since 2014, according to the most recent data from the European Environmental Agency.

German opposition
Germany’s VDA auto industry lobby said it opposed any new targets.

“There is the danger that the most stringent fleet emission targets worldwide could be tightened further, even though the current ones were only agreed last year,” VDA President Bernhard Mattes said in a statement.

The VDA welcomed including road transport in the ETS scheme as the “best market-based solution” for protecting the environment.

PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares, president of the ACEA European automakers association, has strongly criticized EU lawmakers for suggesting greater climate efforts do not come without a cost to employers in the industry or indeed personal liberty.

“Freedom of mobility is something fundamental to our democracies,” Tavares said in September. “Many things need to be coordinated in a 360-degree approach to ensure safe affordable and sustainable mobility,” he said.

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