Driving climate change
This autumn the European Parliament and Council of Ministers are expected to cast their final votes on fuel efficiency standards for cars. The EU positions itself as a world leader on climate change, yet it has steadfastly failed to stand up to he car lobby. If the EU does not effectively legislate for greater fuel efficiency, it is in danger of failing to meet its own 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Emissions from transport, already responsible for 22% of the EU’s carbon footprint, are rising.20 Cars make up a large proportion of this; efficiency improvements are vital in decreasing their emissions. So far, however, MEPs have given into the political muscle of the car industry.
Led by the German industry, the car lobby has successfully delayed and weakened policy targets for fuel efficiency and continues to demand further concessions. Its campaign to undermine effective emissions legislation has been helped by friends in high places. Many politicians hold the misguided view that what the car industry claims is good for them, is also good for the EU.
The European Commission’s (the Commission) mandate to introduce fuel efficiency legislation should come from the Directorate General (DG) for Environment, but this has been consistently undermined by the car lobby supporter, DG for Enterprise.
The world is already starting to feel the effects of climate change. If it is left unchecked, hundreds of millions more people will be at risk from extreme weather events, water shortages and food crises. Commission president Jose Barroso has said: “tackling climate change is crucial to safeguard the future of our planet.”
If the EU is serious about tackling climate change, it has to take a firm stand against the car lobby at this autumn’s crucial vote. There can be no more delays, no more political deals where the industry wins and the climate loses.
To date, industry has successfully:
- Delayed legislative action by consistently pushing voluntary agreements as the way forward.
- Watered down the proposed targets and the timeframes for meeting them.
- Diverted responsibility for CO2 reduction away from car manufacturers.
- Divided the Commission, in particular DG Environment and DG Enterprise. DG Enterprise consistently adopts the car lobby’s position, and has undermined DG Environment’s mandate to set fuel efficiency standards.
- Used aggressive marketing of “eco-models” and “eco-versions” of traditional models as a smokescreen to continue to build ever-heavier and more powerful cars.
Manufacturers have successfully pushed the original deadline for meeting CO2 reduction targets back from 2005 originally set in 1995), to 2012.21
Now the industry is pushing for a further three years. If it is successful it will double the time originally forecast to make crucial emissions reductions.22