European Union lawmakers approved a deal late on Thursday night (October 27) requiring new cars and vans to be zero-emissions from 2035, a landmark agreement that sets Europe on a path to a mostly electric car future.
The European Parliament, led by Dutch centrist Jan Huitema, and the EU Council, represented by the current Czech presidency, reached an agreement shortly before 9pm Brussels time.
Although initially seen as one of the EU’s most controversial Green Deal proposals, the carbon dioxide benchmarks moved quickly and became the first in the so-called “Fit for 55” package to be agreed by member states and parliament.
The legislation will require all new cars and vans sold in the EU to be zero-emission by 2035, a move that effectively bans the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles running on internal combustion engine technology.
Lawmakers also approved interim targets of a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 2021 levels for cars, and a 50% reduction for vans.
EU climate chief Frans Timmermans, who took part in tonight’s negotiations, said the deal sends a strong signal to industry and consumers.
“Europe is transitioning to zero-emission mobility. European automakers are already proving they are ready to step up to the plate, with a growing number of increasingly affordable electric vehicles coming to market,” he said in a statement.
Czech Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Síkela said the deal “will pave the way for a modern and competitive automotive industry in the EU”.
CO2 reports and the “Ferrari clause”
In addition to the phasing out of gasoline and diesel cars, the agreement introduces a new methodology for reporting the carbon dioxide emissions of vehicles during their life cycle, which the European Commission will introduce by 2025.
The Commission will also publish an annual report from 2025 on progress towards zero-emission road mobility. This will cover the impact on automotive industry workers, as well as consumers.
A dispute over the so-called “Ferrari clause” for automakers was also resolved Thursday night. Under the agreement, lawmakers decided that manufacturers producing up to 10,000 cars and 22,000 vans a year will be exempted from the interim target. However, they will still need to reach the zero emissions target by the end of 2035.
Jan Huitema, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator, praised the deal, saying it would “create clarity for the car industry and stimulate innovation and investment for car manufacturers”.
“I am delighted that we agreed with the Council on an ambitious review of targets for 2030 and supported a 100% emissions reduction target by 2035. This is vital to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and making clean driving affordable for our citizens.” ,” he said.
CO2 neutral fuel is included
Despite criticism from the car industry and conservative MEPs, both the European Parliament and the Council had previously approved the 2035 target for zero-emission vehicles.
The main point of contention was the wording of the presuppositions – the non-binding part of the law – originally proposed by the German government. It asks the European Commission to come up with a proposal to allow vehicles that “run only on CO2-neutral fuels” even after 2035.
Critics have warned against this, saying that cars running on synthetic fuels produced with green electricity, so-called e-fuels, will be open.
The vote entered the final agreement, according to the council’s statement.
However, the exemption is intended to apply “outside the scope of the fleet standards,” as the article states, which caused confusion as to whether or not it would apply to all vehicles.
Portuguese MEP Sara Cerdas, who was part of the parliamentary delegation to the talks, said the explanation was clear: “This means ambulances, fire engines, police cars, public fleets,” she told EURACTIV in an interview after the agreement was approved. .
Pascal Canfin, chairman of parliament’s environment committee, also sought to reassure critics, saying the vote was “very vague” and “doesn’t bring anything concrete” other than “stabilizing Germany’s support” for the deal.
The French MEP also drew attention to a new clause inserted into the agreement, which requires the Commission to present a proposal “in 2023” to accelerate the spread of zero-emission vehicles in the fleets of large companies.
“There was a strong request from Parliament to accelerate the commercialization of zero-emission vehicles and the second-hand market for zero-emission vehicles,” Canfin said in an emailed statement.
Center-right EPP warns of ‘Havana effect’
Even with the e-fuels citation, parliament’s center-right EPP group criticized the deal, saying it did not allow for enough technological diversity.
“Today’s agreement closed the door to new technological developments and put all the eggs in one basket. This is a mistake,” said MEP Jens Gieseke, negotiator of the EPP group in a statement.
“With today’s agreement, the ‘Havana Effect’ is becoming more realistic.” After 2035, our streets could be full of vintage cars, because new cars are not available or affordable,” the German conservative MEP warned.
On the other hand, the Greens welcomed the agreement.
“Europe will be the first continent to stop selling new cars with internal combustion engines by 2035. This ambition shows that the EU can be a leader in climate action and will encourage other regions to accelerate their efforts to reduce road emissions,” said Bas Eickhout, negotiator for the Greens.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]