“This agreement will pave the way for the modern and competitive automotive industry in the EU. The world is changing, and we must remain at the forefront of innovation,” Jozef Sikela — the minister of industry and trade in the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating council presidency — said in a statement.
The legislation still needs to be approved formally to become law in the EU, one of the largest automobile markets and home to some of the biggest manufacturers. However, approval by the Council and the European Parliament is expected, with only minor changes.
Many climate change campaigners, who hoped other governments would follow in the EU’s footsteps in effectively banning new gas and diesel vehicles, welcomed the news.
“The days of the carbon-spewing, pollution-belching combustion engine are finally numbered,” Julia Poliscanova, senior director for vehicles and e-mobility at Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment. “It’s 125 years since Rudolf Diesel revolutionized engine efficiency, but lawmakers have decided the next chapter will be written by the cleaner, better electric vehicle.”
Even so, Poliscanova and some other experts worried that the measures, while a step towards sustainable transportation, were still too slow. Manufacturers that produce smaller fleets of less than 10,000 cars or 22,000 vans annually are to have lower targets, at least initially.
This means that niche manufacturers, including high-end brands such as Lamborghini and Ferrari, will be given more leeway on an interim target for 2030, although they will eventually be expected to reach the final target by 2035.
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association cautiously welcomed the decision, which they said was “far-reaching” and “without precedent.” But Oliver Zipse, the group’s president, said he also needed to see how the EU would help the industry with the transition, including with sources of renewable energy, public charging infrastructure and access to raw materials.
“Make no mistake, the European automobile industry is up to the challenge of providing these zero-emission cars and vans,” said Zipse, who is also the chief executive of German automotive giant BMW. “However, we are now keen to see the framework conditions which are essential to meet this target reflected in EU policies.”
Some conservative critics of the legislation suggested that a shift towards all-electric vehicles would increase the cost of new cars in Europe. The result, claimed Jens Gieseke, a German negotiator from the European People’s Party, is that streets will be filled with old cars like in the capital of Communist-led Cuba.
“With today’s agreement, a ‘Havana effect’ is becoming more realistic. After 2035, our streets might become full of vintage cars, because new cars are not available or not affordable,” Gieseke said in a statement.
The European People’s Party and others argued that while emissions need to be brought down, the legislation is too blunt an instrument and would simply result in Chinese and American manufacturers with more flexibility taking business from Europe.
But supporters of the measure said that companies would be given ample time to transition, with an interim target of 55 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 compared to 2021 levels for cars, and a 50 percent reduction for vans.
“With these targets, we create clarity for the car industry and stimulate innovation and investments for car manufacturers,” Jan Huitema, a Dutch politician and chief negotiator for the European Parliament, said in a statement.
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