Green groups and carmakers clash over emissions targets

Environmental groups have called for European law makers to back tougher emissions standards for cars, at a vote in the European Parliament tomorrow (3 Oct).

Groups including the European Public Health Alliance and Deutsche Umwelthilfe have claimed that strong action to curb emissions would help to tackle health damage caused by air pollution from vehicles.

car manufacture air quality

Carmakers and green groups are putting pressure on MEPs over the implementation of new emissions targets for cars ahead of a vote tomorrow

Tomorrow, the European Parliament will consider proposals to raise car efficiency standards in 2021, which will then be put before Europe’s transport ministers next week.

Current proposals endorsed by the European Commission would see car makers required to achieve a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions from new cars sold between 2020 and 2030 – a proposal that green groups claim does not go far enough.

Environmental organisations have put further pressure on MEPs to back the more ambitious proposals ahead of tomorrow’s plenary session by highlighting the potential benefit that tougher emissions standards could have on air pollution.

The groups have also highlighted research, published in Germany this summer, suggesting that children are more exposed to dangerous pollutants from cars than adults.

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, where the plenary session will take place tomorrow

The research by German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe measured nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution in 500 street locations in six cities over a one month period this spring and summer.

Readings were taken at a height of one and two metres; a proxy for exposure to children versus adults. In the vast majority of locations, NO2 levels were higher at one metre, averaging 7.2% higher, with 37% more NO2 in one location, Deutsche Umwelthilfe claimed.

Health

The organisations have also today launched a video that simulates the effect of car pollution.

European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) policy manager Zoltán Massay-Kosubek said: “Our video shows it how it is. Air pollution is the biggest environmental health problem we face, affecting millions. Political choices can have a huge impact. The costs will either be borne by the car industry, or by citizens paying the price of dirty air.

“European rules being decided right now have the power to breathe clean air into cities across the continent. A vote for sensible, strong controls will be a tipping point for clean car technologies, and about time too.”

Dorothee Saar, head of traffic and air pollution control for Deutsche Umwelthilfe, said: “Our research is a picture almost certainly reflected in cities across Europe. NO2 is emitted close to the ground and therefore impacts pets and children more than adults. It’s a matter of physics.”

Despite pressure from green groups, Europe’s carmakers have suggested that more aggressive targets for emissions reductions could potentially jeopardise jobs in car plants across the continent.

Car industry

In a statement issued yesterday, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), suggested that future CO2 reductions are strongly dependent on far greater sales of alternatively-powered vehicles.

As electric powertrains have fewer moving parts than the average combustion engine, ACEA claimed, their production requires less manufacturing labour, and would potentially lead to job cuts within the car industry.

ACEA Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert, said: “The more aggressive the CO2 reduction targets are, the more disruptive the socio-economic impacts will be, especially in member states and regions where the sector’s share of industrial output is high.”

He added: “Boosting electric car sales will also require more support from national governments to ensure an EU‐wide roll‐out of recharging infrastructure, as well as incentives to encourage customers to switch to such vehicles.”

“The stakes of Wednesday’s vote are extremely high for the entire sector, which accounts for over 6% of the EU employed population and 27% of all private EU investment in research and development,” cautioned Jonnaert.

“We are calling on MEPs to be aware of the possible unintended implications of their vote. Reducing CO2 emissions from the transport sector is of course crucial – as is affordable mobility for consumers and the long-term viability of the European automotive sector.”