EU lawmakers backed a more ambitious carbon dioxide reduction target for fleets of cars and vans of 45 per cent by 2030, setting the stage for a tough fight with national governments.
The draft rules endorsed in the European Parliament's Environment Committee would also set an interim goal of a 20 per cent reduction by 2025.
It revises the EU executive's initial draft targets of 15 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030 compared to 2021 levels.
The biggest political group European People Party did not, however, back the tighter targets.
If approved by the assembly as a whole next month, EU lawmakers are set for tough talks with the bloc's 28 governments on a final law, as nations with big automotive industries fear stricter rules could cost growth and jobs.
The EU's new rules aim to help meet the bloc's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. They will introduce a credit system for carmakers to encourage the rollout of electric vehicles and fines for exceeding CO2 limits.
Nations with big automotive industries fear stricter rules could cost growth and jobs
Under the plan, camakers would be able to lower their overall targets by selling more low-emission vehicles.
Lawmakers voted to set carmakers higher benchmarks for low-emission vehicles as share of sales new cars and vans of 20 per cent by 2025 and 40 per cent by 2030 and added penalties for failing to meet these targets.
Volkswagen's admission to US regulators in 2015 that it had masked tailpipe exhaust using software in as many as 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide has galvanised EU regulators into setting tougher climate rules.
When a recent EU study showed that carmakers were cheating new EU pollution checks to avoid a repeat of the scandal, many in Brussels voiced frustration.
To tackle the problem, EU lawmakers have added an amendment calling emissions results delcared by automakers based on laboratory tests to be checked against on-road ones.
European automakers association ACEA has called for laxer 20 CO2 limits, saying poor infrastructure and an underdeveloped consumer market limit their ability to sell more electric cars.
"We cannot push these electric cars down people's throats," ACEA secretary general Erik Jonnaert said ahead of the vote.
Climate and consumer groups, however, say it is up to automakers to do more to market electric vehicles.
"The committee has really done what the (European) Commission failed to do in proposing a more ambitious targets and closing test loop holes," said Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at the climate group Transport and Environment.
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