Almost one fifth of the Czech Republic's air pollution is caused by transport and yet efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in cars have borne little fruit. But this week, EU industry ministers said they have drawn up a plan that is expected to win the approval of the two main players in the debate - environmentalists and carmakers.
The new proposal drawn up in Brussels this week upholds original plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 120 grams per kilometre by 2012. But while past attempts have been targeting mainly manufacturers of larger cars, the new plan says all carmakers will be affected. How much, though, will depend on the country they are in and the types of cars that they are making. This week's proposal also considers the role that other factors including types of tyres, fuel, and driving styles play in emissions. Car manufacturers will therefore have to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 130g/km, while the other measures will account for the remaining ten grams. The proposal has yet to be ratified by environmental ministers in June, but according to Czech environment ministry spokesman Jakub Kaspar it is a good compromise solution that already has the backing of the Czech government:
"We can serve with some examples. Toyota in the Czech Republic makes 'city' cars with very low emissions and it does not make big cars or SUVs and so on. Skoda Auto, on the other hand, is the biggest carmaker in the country and makes all the car classes starting with the Fabia where emissions already meet the target of 120g/km to the Superb, which is a much bigger car than the Fabia, for example. So I think that we have to respect these differences."
So if the target emission limits are met by 2012 - 120g/km - how will that affect the overall emission rate in the Czech Republic?
"We can say that transport, especially road transport, is responsible for about 18 percent of all emissions in Europe and the situation is similar in the Czech Republic. The problem is that the trend is negative - transport is on the rise. So, the overall emission levels, not only carbon dioxide emissions but also others like dust emissions are growing. Of course from the point of view of climate change, every reduction of CO2 emissions per kilometre is very good news for the Czech Republic."
What do you think will the environment ministers decide next month when they are scheduled to ratify this week's proposal?
"I am quite optimistic because the negotiation is a compromise solution that is not bad for the environment. It is also acceptable to the ministers of trade of industry and most carmakers in Europe. What needs to be stressed is that the limit is not only for cars produced in the European Union but for all cars that are sold in the EU. So, it is an answer to fears from the point of view of competition."
How the emission limits will be distributed has yet to be decided. The European Commission is currently working on a feasibility study to determine how effective the proposed measures will be. New legislation is expected to be put forward by the middle of next year.
On average, the cars manufactured at Skoda Auto pollute the air with 150 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. Skoda has already committed itself to reducing that to 140g/km by the end of next year. The company's Martin Jahn welcomes the Brussels plan, stressing that for manufacturers of larger cars, it is imperative that an integrated approach is adopted when new legislation is drawn up next year:
"The vehicle related target of 130g/km by 2012 in general on average is technically not feasible. It is just impossible to achieve this target on average and therefore what we are looking for is an integrated approach that also deals with other players in this because reducing CO2 emissions only through vehicle technology is very expensive and there are other measures, such as the use of bio-fuels, better infrastructure, traffic management, and economical driving styles. So, what we expect to happen is that the feasibility study will be done and then the legislation will be based on parameters. So every car, not only big cars, will have to reduce CO2 emissions but it would be based on parameters and not on average."