The European Parliament on Wednesday threw its weight behind a proposed ban on selling new cars with combustion engines in 2035, seeking to step up the fight against climate change by speeding up development of electric vehicles.
The European Union assembly voted in Strasbourg, France, to require automakers to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 100% by the middle of the next decade, The Associated Press reports. The mandate would amount to a prohibition on the sale in the 27-nation bloc of new cars powered by gasoline or diesel.
EU lawmakers also endorsed a 55% reduction in CO2 from automobiles in 2030 compared with 2021. The move deepens an existing obligation on the car industry to lower CO2 discharges by 37.5% on average at the end of the decade compared to last year.
Environmentalists hailed the parliament’s decisions. Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based alliance, said the vote offered “a fighting chance of averting runaway climate change.”
But Germany’s auto industry lobby group VDA criticized the vote, saying it ignored the lack of charging infrastructure in Europe. The group also said the vote was “a decision against innovation and technology”, a reference to demands from the industry that synthetic fuels be exempt from the ban, which European lawmakers rejected.
Greenpeace Germany transport specialist Tobias Austrup said the decision would finally put to rest “utopian hopes” that synthetic fuels could extend the lifetime of the combustion engine. But Environmental Action Germany (DUH) said the 2035 ban was too little, too late, even if it was a step in the right direction.
“The escalating climate crisis does not give us the time to push millions of new internal combustion cars onto Europe’s roads for another 13 years, which in turn will have to rely on climate-damaging fuel for 15 years or even longer,” the group declared.
EU member governments will need to give their verdicts in the coming weeks or months before a final agreement on the tougher car emission requirements is approved. If it survives that process, the 2035 deadline will be particularly tough on German automakers, which have focused on powerful and expensive vehicles with combustion engines while falling behind foreign rivals when it comes to electric cars, AP explains.
The 2030 CO2 reduction target and ban on combustion engines in 2035 were proposed last year by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. Cars account for around 12% of European greenhouse gas emissions, which are triggering increasingly frequent and intense heat waves, storms, and floods tied to climate change.
The car law is being scrutinized as part of a package of draft climate legislation covering a range of polluting industries. The EU plans to slash emissions 55% from 1990 levels by 2030, rather than by just a previously agreed 40% over the period.
A big portion of the cuts would come from power plants and factories. Those two sectors, unlike cars, have their greenhouse gases curbed in the EU by an emissions trading system that reduces the supply of required pollution permits year by year.
But some of those permits are allocated free, rather than being auctioned off. And earlier Wednesday, the EU parliament failed to advance that part of the climate package because of a split over how quickly the free allocations should be phased out.
The assembly asked its environment committee to reopen deliberations on the matter. As a result, the EU parliament also delayed its decisions on two related initiatives.
One is the creation of a Social Climate Fund to help vulnerable households cope with the planned clean energy revamp—an issue that has become more politically sensitive since Russia’s war in Ukraine has sent fuel prices soaring.
The second is an unprecedented import tax known as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, a first-of-its-kind tool that would allow the EU to raise the prices of some imported goods—including steel and aluminum—from jurisdictions where they don’t have to pay the same climate protection costs as their competitors in the EU bloc.