As we look ahead to the 7 June Plenary vote in the European Parliament on CO2 standards for cars and vans, the needs of citizens should be considered in relation to how we reach climate-neutral mobility, providing affordable options, choice, and the same convenience and quality of life that Europeans expect. To do so, we must deploy all effective and efficient solutions which work for the climate, for citizens, and protect the competitiveness of our industries.
in CLEPA, by Sigrid de Vries, 24-05-2022
With the ‘Fit for 55’ package last July, the European Commission laid out its proposal to put the EU on the trajectory towards climate neutrality by 2050. Defossilising the transport sector, which is responsible for about a quarter of the EU’s CO2 emissions, is seen as critical to reaching this goal. One of the main levers to reduce emissions from the automotive industry specifically, is the CO2 standards for cars and vans. Various amendments to the Commission’s proposal are now being debated in the Parliament, chief of which are the target itself, a fuel credit scheme, and Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA).
Automotive suppliers are fully behind the trend towards electrification, but the transition needs to be properly managed. Members of European Parliament and Council of the European Union are increasingly aware of the fact that the transformation must focus on the environment, but it must also strike the right balance between the social and industrial dimensions. In other words, it should be green, just AND resilient.
The internal combustion engine (ICE) is still very much a point of discussion. The encouraging results of the recent vote in the ENVI Committee on CO2 standards for cars and vans keep the door open in the Plenary to recognise the contribution that advanced ICEs can play in the transition toward climate-neutral mobility through the use of sustainable renewable fuels.
As I previously pointed out in my February Editorial, after the enthusiasm initially triggered by the ‘Fit for 55’ package, a more sensible and pragmatic approach began to take hold within the EU institutions and in the automotive sector. Recent developments only confirm this trend toward prudence.
Indeed, all amendments in the ENVI Committee were rejected, both those in favour of stricter standards proposed by the Rapporteur and those in favour of an adjusted 90% CO2 emissions target in 2035, compared to 2021 levels. The latter passed both in the ITRE and TRAN Committees ahead of the ENVI vote, indicating broad support for technology openness.
All three Committees approved the request to the Commission to develop a full life-cycle methodology for assessing vehicles’ CO2 emissions. This is a clear indication that the current tailpipe-only measurement for CO2 is insufficient for assessing the true carbon footprint of a vehicle.
Following the IPCC’s recent report calling for an LCA methodology, and the Green NCAP’s first trial at developing a comprehensive LCA methodology for consumers to determine how green their vehicle truly is, it appears that the Parliament is following suit and confirming the merits of CLEPA’s longstanding position on the need for a comprehensive approach to the CO2 measurement of a car, putting all powertrain technologies on a level playing field. A well-to-wheel approach, which takes into account how the energy is produced to power a vehicle, would be a good first step to a full LCA.
The ongoing war in Ukraine is also pushing Europe to reconsider its energy dependence on Russia. Indeed, we have to keep our options open, let businesses adapt to their local and regional realities, and deploy a wide variety of technologies that rely on different materials and energy sources. As Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency said this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, “The world does not need to choose between an energy crisis and a climate crisis,” and I couldn’t agree more.
The REpowerEU plan presented last week by the European Commission also envisaged massive investments to support the production of renewable transport fuels. In this regard, the adoption of a voluntary fuel credit scheme for renewable fuels in Plenary – also recommended by the TRAN Committee – would be an important and needed step towards incentivising the investments and market scale-up of these fuels.
The impact of the ongoing supply chain issues – not only as a result of the war in Ukraine, but also the Chinese lockdowns – are leading the industry to take a more cautious approach. Several EV manufacturers, including Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, have had to revise their sales targets due to higher raw material prices and continued supply chain disruptions.
CLEPA has been advocating for technology openness on CO2 standards in order to empower innovation, people and EU competitiveness. If you ban technologies, you place constraints and limitations on resources, on choice, on jobs and on the economy. Ban fossil fuels, not technologies. Let’s leverage decades of investments in the advanced ICE technology while scaling up our battery value chain and infrastructure.
Let the crisis we now face be the ultimate push to leave options open. The enormity of what’s at stake requires of us to be flexible, as clearly there is no crystal ball on what lies ahead. If there is one lesson from all of this, it’s that diversification is key. The ambitious target of carbon-neutral mobility cannot be accomplished with just one prescribed technology but rather complementary solutions.
The role of the European Parliament is precisely to act as an intermediary between the institutions and EU citizens, and we hope that on 7 June, MEPs put people at the centre of the transition and truly leave no one behind.
Sigrid de Vries
CLEPA’s Secretary General