I am absolutely not impressed by the CO2 policy for cars proposal presented by the European Commission and I do not think it shows European climate change leadership at all.
First, for all the heavy lobbying and media attention surrounding this issue, today’s Commission proposal to oblige car manufacturers to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of new cars from 2012 will do little to limit the climate impact of road transport. It is indeed the driving of the car (the kilometers driven) which are responsible for the emissions, not the car in itself (except for the emissions produced in the manufacturing process – who has any figures on this, BTW?). Even if all producers would meet the 130gr/km requirements by 2012, more cars on the road and more mobility needs will mean that by 2020 the growth of emissions from road transport are likely to increase. As long as politicians shy away from tackling the volumes of transport, they will just raise expectations on which they cannot deliver. Technological innovations are badly needed and lots more money needs to be invested in the research and development of these innovations but where are the lifestyle changing policies that we need? It seems easier to find industry scapegoats (cars, aviation) than to take courageous actions that would hurt voters I suspect.
Second, the legislative proposal will still face a hard struggle within the Council where countries like Germany will continue pushing for less pressure on their national car champions. The “national interest reflex” of our governments (not only in this dossier) is one of the reasons I am pessimistic about EU energy policy.
Third, the proposal itself is a monster of complexity which reflects the number of technocratic compromises that had to be made to achieve a result. As such it might have a lot of perverse long-term effects which have not been foreseen in the impact assessment, just like this other technical complexity monster which is called the European Emissions Trading Scheme.
Fourth, because of this complexity and the flexibility clauses foreseen (the “curve”, the “pooling”) I guess the industry will not have a very difficult time to find ways around the “hard” measures and prevent fines (which BTW only become serious from the third year – so from 2015).
In the meantime, let’s keep driving :)