PARIS -- The EU Commission signalled it is sticking to an ambitious program to cut auto CO2 emissions, rejecting overtures by the auto industry to reduce long-term objectives.
In a document published February 11, the Commission reaffirmed its objective is to reduce per-car CO2 emissions to an average of "120 grams per kilometer by 2005, and by 2010 at the latest."
Automakers are unlikely to meet the 120g/km target by 2005, but "it remains realistic to meet the objective by 2010 if the necessary measures are taken and all efforts are made," the Commission said in a report to the EU council of ministers and Parliament.
Beneath the bland language, automakers and the EU are locked in a tug-of-war over how much and how quickly carbon-dioxide emissions will be reduced. It is a struggle fought with diplomatic politeness, but the stakes are high. European automakers are positioning themselves to ask to slow the long-term pace of CO2 reductions. EU regulators are responding that they prefer to speed CO2 cuts.
So far, the CO2 reduction goals are voluntary. In separate agreements, ACEA, the European automakers association; Japanese automakers; and Korean automakers pledged to cut emissions to 140g/km by 2008 (2009 for the Asian brands) and 120g/km by 2012 (2013 for Asians). But the EU can legislate stiffer rules if it is dissatisfied.
Last October, Renault Chairman Louis Schweitzer, then ACEA chairman, told Automotive News Europe that 120g/km by 2012 was an "unreasonable" target. Carmakers argue that consumers shun low-fuel consumption vehicles, and that the investment required to bring CO2 emissions to the 120g/km level is prohibitive.
ACEA carmakers publicly say they can only meet their commitment to 140g/km by 2008.
But European automakers may be ready for a compromise. EU sources say ACEA suggested in a preliminary note to the EU in December that cutting CO2 emissions by 5 percent between 2008 and 2012 might be possible. This would mean a CO2 emission average of 133g/km.
ACEA spokesman Alfredo Filippone denied the group made any such suggestion.
The Commission's February 11 paper suggests it may impose new taxes to coax consumers into buying environmentally friendly cars.
The issue is unlikely to be settled soon.
EU and ACEA officials said negotiations won't start in earnest before the fall, after a new Parliament creates a new EUCommission.
The Commission's document expressed satisfaction over progress made so far by the members of ACEA and JAMA, the Japanese association, toward the 140g/km objective. But it strongly criticized KAMA, the Korean carmakers association, for lagging behind.
In 2002, KAMA members' newly registered passenger cars produced 183g/km CO2, compared with 165g/km by ACEA and 174g/km by JAMA.
Those figures are the first to be based on data provided to the EU by member states rather than by car manufacturers. EU figures show the CO2 reduction since 1995 has been slightly less than suggested by carmakers.The EU says the reduction is 10.8 percent, ACEA claims it is 12.1 percent.
According to an EU official, who declined to be named, ACEA is being less transparent with its CO2 figures than JAMA.
The February 11 EU document said as much, in diplomatic terms. Only little progress (on comparability of data) could be made for cost reasons and for reasons of commercial confidentiality claimed by the data providers, it said.