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EU Car Emission Legislation Stall


7th February, 2007

The European Commission is expected to soften its original proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions for cars produced in Europe, just two weeks after the European Union embraced a "low-carbon economy," saying it would lead the way in the fight against climate change by shifting away from imported oil and natural gas.

A source from the EU has told Reuters the the emissions limit, which was originally to be set at 120g/km by 2012, will instead be changed to 130g/km. Furthermore, the 120g/km would only have to be achieved across a manufacturer's fleet, meaning that high impact SUV's can survive the legislation.

However the Commission claims it will still target an overall cut in emissions to 120g/km. They aim to achieve this by increasing the use of biofuels and other technologies in addition to improved standards introduced by the carmakers voluntarily.

The current industry average remains at 161g/km, however, the new restrictions are being pushed towards binding legislation. This is because until now, European carmakers have failed to even attain voluntary standards that were set at 140g/km by 2008.

Engine technology has become more efficient over the last ten years, with average fuel consumption needed to power a 1000CC engine being cut by nearly 13 per cent. However this has not been translated into reduced emissions because people have been buying heavier and faster cars with larger engines. Sales of small, fuel-efficient cars have remained stagnant.

Critics blame increased advertising of SUV's as 'lifestyle' vehicles for cities and as an effective way of protecting your children from traffic injury.

The secretary general of the European car manufacturers' association (ACEA) Ivan Hodac said that an EU-wide tax on carbon fuels would deter consumers from purchasing petrol hungry vehicles. He pointed to taxes that favour more fuel-efficient diesel having helped these cars take close to half of the European car market.

The overall level of carbon dioxide emissions from road transport has risen 22 per cent since 1990 as the number of cars on the road continues to grow with drivers travelling ever greater distances. Passenger cars and vans made up 14 per cent of Europe's carbon dioxide emissions in 2004, the European Environment Agency said.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist February 2007


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