The European Commission is today considering a proposal to force car makers to cut their cars' CO2 emissions.
A voluntary target agreed in 1998 of cutting the average car's emissions to 140g/km by 2008/9 is unlikely to be met. At the moment, the average new European car emits around 162g/km. The EU had original proposed a cut to 120g/km by 2012.
The proposal is causing major divisions within the EU. Germany in particular is fighting it – last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ‘I think I can go as far as to say that we will prevent a general reduction [in emissions].’
Transport is the only area in which CO2 emissions have significantly risen in the past 15 years. Car makers have made huge strides in increasing the efficiency of engines, but this has been negated by cars' increasing weight and size, not least as a result of EU legislation, such as tough new pedestrian impact laws. Car makers also argue that there is little consumer demand for smaller, more efficient cars – they are buying heavier, more luxurious cars. Critics counter that we need legislation to force consumers to buy more efficient cars.
Even if today's proposal is made law, it is unlikely to come into effect until at least 2008.