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Activists, automakers unhappy with EU emission plans

From Reuters| February 07,2007

Environmentalists and industry clashed today over plans by the European Commission to set new limits on car emissions, which automakers called too costly and activists said were too lax.

The Commission, the EU executive, will propose that carmakers should be required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars sold in Europe to an average 130 grams per kilometer by 2012, an EU source told Reuters on Monday, Feb. 5.

It would target an overall cut in car emissions to 120 grams per km by 2012 from current levels of roughly 161 grams per km. The goal would be achieved through biofuel use and other technology in addition to improved standards from carmakers themselves, the source said.

Environmentalists said the 120 grams per km should have been imposed on carmakers directly.

"All these other measures that are suddenly supposed to count towards this are just in effect watering it down," said Jos Dings, director of environmental group T&E. "All the other measures, while we wouldn't say that they're not needed, should have been supplementary. They should have come on top of the 120 target rather than instead of (it)."

But the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), a lobby group, said the 130 g/km figure was still too high and not the most cost-effective way to curb climate change.

"We're very committed to fighting global warming together with every other participant," said ACEA spokeswoman Sigrid de Vries. "But putting the burden mainly on the car industry is too costly and not cost-effective, and it will lead toward loss of jobs and manufacturing in Europe."

ACEA represents manufacturers including BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Fiat and Renault.

COMPROMISE

The proposal is part of EU efforts to fight climate change.

European carmakers are expected to miss a voluntary goal to reduce the average carbon dioxide output from new cars to 140 grams per km by 2008, a fact that has given weight to arguments for binding legislation.

Asian carmakers have until 2009 to meet the voluntary target. The 2012 targets will apply to all cars sold within the 27-nation bloc, however, affecting car manufacturers in the United States as well.

A Commission spokesman said a consensus was growing among the executive body's 27 commissioners behind a compromise proposal, but he declined to comment on the details.

"The Commission is on the right track to finalizing the most ambitious approach ever and the most ambitious approach worldwide in this field," Johannes Laitenberger told a daily briefing, adding the overall goal of 120 g/km would be held.

"The bulk of the effort will have to come from vehicle technology," he said. "The rest of the effort will have to come from other sources and tomorrow's proposals will map out the principles more in detail."

The commissioners meet to discuss the strategy on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen have been at odds over how far the EU should go to force manufacturers to meet strict emissions goals.

The Commission is also due to present a strategy on Wednesday to boost the competitiveness of the EU auto industry, including getting rid of unnecessary regulations, advocating more bilateral trade agreements to improve market access, and improving safety with daytime headlights and other measures.

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