Car industry, EU to clash over CO2 limits

Brussels. Positions are becoming entrenched in the debate over voluntary reductions to CO2 emissions between the European Commission and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

A meeting between EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem and acting ACEA president, Renault CEO Louis Schweitzer, will take place November 25.

Henning Arp, a member of the EU environment cabinet, said the talks will focus on the specification of new carbon dioxide limits, which are due to take effect in 2008.

EU Commission also will question whether current methods of measurement are up to date during a meeting set for December 16.

The auto industry and the commission are divided on the necessity of a further reduction of automobile carbon dioxide emissions levels. EU insiders are bracing themselves for strong resistance from automobile manufacturers in the coming negotiations.

"This could become messy," a BMW manager agreed.

The EU aims to push through a reduction to 120 grams per kilometer, which Bernd Gottschalk, president of the German auto industry association, described as, "Very hard or even impossible."

European manufacturers are "rowing until their fingers bleed" said a Ford official to meet the 2008 goal of 140 grams per kilometer ACEA and the EU commission set in 1998.

Renault's Schweitzer said, "It will be extremely hard to fulfill this target," while BMW says the agreement will require "extraordinary technical and financial efforts."

German Federal Environment Minister Juergen Trittin is urging German auto manufacturers not to lose sight of the importance of climate protection. "Voluntary commitments only make sense if you stick to them," he said "If this should not be the case the EU commission will have to consider a legal solution."

So far, the auto industry is meeting set objectives. According to an annual EU report, which will probably be published in mid-December, European manufacturers reached an average CO2 level of 165 grams per kilometer in 2002, which means they have already reached their intermediary target for 2003 (165-170g). This puts them well ahead of Japanese (174g) and Korean manufacturers (181g).

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