climate goals

EU Commissioner explains why carmakers must cut emissions

Berufsverkehr in Berlin
Source: DPA

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn made progress in implementing the Paris climate accord. The goal is clear: to initially limit the rise in temperature to 2°C and then to 1.5 degrees at the end of the century. However, the rebound in greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 – the first increase in four years – shows that our goal can only be achieved if everyone contributes their share. Europe is determined to lead by example.

We have committed ourselves to a 40-percent reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Every sector has to contribute to this, especially transportation. While we have continuously reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent since 1990, road traffic emissions have increased by about 20 percent. The transportation sector is currently responsible for 22 percent of total emissions in Europe and continues to grow.

This is why the European Commission adopted a comprehensive mobility package on November 8 to help speed up the introduction of clean vehicles in the European Union. The package focuses on new CO2 requirements for cars and vans. They require car manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions by 15 percent by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030, with 2021 serving as the baseline.

Europe's automotive industry has a proud history. However, following the recent emissions scandal, its reputation, which is based on trust and reliability, is in jeopardy.

Our proposal also introduces an innovative incentive system to reward manufacturers who invest more in clean vehicles. The system does not provide for mandatory quotas or mandates, but establishes a reference value for the number of emission-free or low-emission cars that each manufacturer should put on the market in 2025 and 2030. Manufacturers that exceed this value are rewarded with a relaxation of their specific CO2 target.

After all, a better enforcement system and stricter controls will ensure that automakers actually achieve their goals. The proposal aims to restore consumer confidence. Europe’s automotive industry has a proud history. But following the recent emissions scandal, its reputation, which is based on trust and reliability, is in jeopardy.

The right approach is to invest today in the clean vehicles of tomorrow. Our proposal will help keep the European car industry competitive and innovative. When we face reality, we realize that Europe is falling behind in the race for clean cars. In 2016, new electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of total sales in the EU (or approx. 150,000 vehicles). Instead of going to Europe, investments are going to California, which offers strong incentives for electric cars. Or to China, which has just introduced quotas for electric cars for 2019 and 2020 and has set itself the target of producing seven million electric vehicles annually by 2025.

Europe is falling behind in the race for clean cars.

But setting targets will not be enough if we want to put clean vehicles on the market. The success of electric vehicles and other zero-emission cars will depend, on the one hand, on whether the charging infrastructure is available and, on the other hand, on how quickly batteries will become available at competitive prices.

This is why the European Commission has also proposed an action plan with its mobility package, which provides €800 million ($942 million) to support infrastructure projects, including charging infrastructure. The package also includes a €200 million battery initiative to ensure that the next generation of batteries is developed and manufactured in Europe.

The global technology race has begun and Europe must continue to lead the way. The automotive industry is of central importance for Germany as an industrial location and for its competitiveness. Automakers and suppliers employ over 850,000 people in Germany.

In view of growing international competition and the sharply rising demand for emission-free and low-emission vehicles in target markets like China and California, it is important that Europe remains a leading market.

Our mobility package will help keep the German automotive industry at the forefront of the global market by investing in clean technologies, safeguarding jobs in the process.

To contact the author: gastautor@handelsblatt.com

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