Auto Firms' C02 Pact With EU Lacks Teeth

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 12, 2001 (ENS) - The voluntary agreement between the European Commission and vehicle manufacturers to reduce cars' carbon dioxide emissions is weak, unambitious and unenforceable, said a scathing study released today by Europe's largest environment coalition.

"Voluntary agreements are fashionable, but our study raises serious doubts as to whether they work at European Union level and whether they are being applied appropriately," said John Hontelez, secretary general of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

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Increasing car ownership means C02 emissions will rise, despite voluntary agreements, argues the EEB. (Photos by Ian Britton, courtesy http://freefoto.com)
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the foremost greenhouse gas, so called because it accumulates in the upper atmosphere where it contributes to the gradual warming of Earth.

In 1997, the European Commission, the executive arm of the 15 member European Union, committed to reducing the emissions of C02 and five other greenhouse gases by eight percent on 1990 levels by 2010.

To help reach this target, agreed in Kyoto, Japan, as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the European Commission negotiated a voluntary agreement with European, Japanese and Korean car manufacturers to reduce C02 emissions from vehicles.

Under the agreement reached in July 1998 and finalized in 1999, the European Automotive Manufacturers Association (ACEA) pledged to reduce the new car fleet average emissions from 186 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 1995 to 140g/km by 2008 - a reduction of 25 percent.

According to the European Commission, such a reduction will contribute about 15 percent of the total emissions reductions required from the European under the Kyoto Protocol.

A similar voluntary agreement was negotiated with Japanese and Korean car industry associations, JAMA and KAMA. Both associations have an extra year to reach the 140g/km target, because compared to ACEA, both sell a higher proportion of four wheel drive cars that emit more CO2.

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Vehicle exhaust contributes significantly to Europe's greenhouse gas emissions.
Today's study presents numerous shortcomings with the agreements.

The EEB claims that compared to 1990 levels, CO2 emissions will actually rise by 20 to 30 percent by 2005, even if the manufacturers adhere to their voluntary commitments. For this reason, the EEB says the agreements are unambitious, noting that longer term objectives beyond 2009 were not even considered.

Other EEB criticisms are as follows:

The EEB believes the auto industry needs to be given the right signals so that it can begin planning well in advance for more C02 reductions. That is why it is disappointed that earlier calls by European Parliament and NGOs for post-2010 targets were ignored by the voluntary agreements.

This is when greater emissions reductions will be necessary to minimize the damage of global warming, said the EEB.

"Voluntary agreements should not be applied to industries whose market trends are moving in the opposite direction to that which is desired in order to achieve environmental objectives, especially if they can not be enforced," summed up the study.

"Once ratified, the Kyoto Protocol will be binding and some of the impacts of global warming may be irreversible. Thus, unenforceable voluntary agreements should also not be applied to problems which require guaranteed environmental objectives."