EU proposes 25 percent cut in new car emissions

The European Commission has drafted the European automobile industry into the fight against climate change, calling for a new car emissions to be slashed by a quarter over five years.

But the plans met with quick criticism from environmentalists for not being tough enough and from carmakers claiming they put an unfair burden on the industry that could cost jobs in Europe.

Under a commission proposal unveiled Wednesday, new passenger cars would be required to emit on average no more than 120 grammes per kilometre travelled as of 2012, which would represent a cut of about 25 percent from current levels.

Auto makers would be required to limit average emissions across their fleet to 130 grammes per kilometer by improving the technology they use.

A further 10 grammes would be cut through requirements on tyre, equipment and fuel makers to improve air-conditioning efficiency, tyre pressure monitoring and gear shift indicators while increasing the use of biofuels and other measures.

The European Union's executive arm is aiming to present by the end of the year formal legislation that will then have to be approved by EU governments and the European Parliament.

"Clearly the European auto industry faces a major challenge and I would urgently advise them to face up to the challenge," EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told journalists. "I know that European industry can meet that challenge..

With carmakers failing to meet existing voluntary targets, the commission decided binding limits were needed, but Verheugen and Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas were divided over how much an effort should come from car makers.

Dimas sought a tough binding limit of 120 grammes for car makers while Verheugen wanted measures to be shared with tyre, equipment and fuel makers, easing the burden on the automobile industry, which he says employs 12 million people directly or indirectly in Europe.

The clash delayed the unveiling of car emissions proposal for weeks, casting a shadow over a recent drive to fight climate change, which was one of the main planks of a wide-ranging energy action plan the commission presented last month.

European Automobile Manufacturers Association was up in arms about the commission's "arbitrary proposals", which it said could force car makers to relocate production elsewhere.

"The automotive sector forms the backbone of the European manufacturing industry, with thousands of smaller companies depending on a dozen major players," said its president and Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne.

"At least 12 million EU workers and their families count on a balanced policy on CO2 emissions from cars," he added.

European, Japanese and Korean manufacturers have failed to meet a voluntary target to cut average emissions for new cars sold in Europe by 25 percent from 1995 levels, cutting instead only by 12.4 percent.

Road transport pollution has risen 26 percent since 1990 and now makes up about a fifth of the EU's carbon dioxide emissions, with 12 percent coming from passenger cars.

"Not only is the car industry failing on its voluntary commitment to cut CO2 emissions, the commission now wants to reward this failure with a weaker fuel-efficiency target," said Jos Dings of the Transport and Environment pressure group.

Green member of the European Parliament Claude Turmes accused the commission of backing down from Dimas' original 120-gramme/km target for car makers alone under pressure from the German automobile industry.

"By scaling back its proposals on CO2 emissions from cars, the Commission has once again confirmed that the bottom line of the German car industry takes priority over tackling climate change," he said.

Verheugen rejected such claims, describing the plan as "the most ambitious in the world" and added that "it will be the most ambitious for a very long time."