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Europe’s Carmakers Seek Holistic Pollution Policy

European carmakers are pushing a 10-point plan to help reach the region’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
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European carmakers are pushing a 10-point plan to help reach the region’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Trade group ACEA unveiled the plan today, even as it warned that Europe’s car sales are likely to drop 2% this year, ending seven years of steady growth and putting further financial pressure on the industry.

Financial Squeeze

Europe’s auto industry has committed massive investments in electrification and other steps to slash carbon dioxide emissions. They face tight European Union regulations with no room to put off the inevitable.

ACEA says the industry’s new plan describes a holistic approach to keep manufacturers solvent and the EU’s CO2 strategy on track.

The scheme’s overall goals are to adopt a holistic approach that makes future transportation affordable for everyone and provides customers as many options as possible regarding propulsion sources.

The plan urges policymakers to be technology neutral. In Europe, that’s code for reversing the rollout of local and regional bans on diesels. The industry’s view is that diesels may not be perfect, but they still could help lower overall CO2 emissions. (No comment about nitrogen oxide emissions, which prompted the diesel bans in the first place.)

More Goals

The plan also urges the EU to:

  • Install many more electric charging stations, include some tailored to the very different needs of commercial electric trucks
  • Adjust fuel taxes to promote renewable and low-carbon fuels
  • Launch consistent incentives that encourage fleets to switch to greener (but more expensive) vehicles
  • Adopt policies that enable advances in commercial transport and logistics, including such innovations as truck platooning across national borders
  • Help the industry retrain workers for electrification and other new technologies
  • Spend more on research and innovation regarding greener transport
  • Don’t make lifecycle assessment a basis for regulations, since the issue involves industries outside automotive and sometimes outside the EU

Rough Road Ahead

Even with all these projects in place, achieving zero-carbon output by 2050 will be a stretch.

ACEA notes that CO2 emissions from road transport fell 10% from 2007 to 2013—to a still-breathtaking 830 million metric tonnes. But half that gain disappeared by 2017, eroded by a boom in demand for less efficient SUVs and increases in distance traveled and amount of freight hauled.

For now, simply stopping that growth will be a major accomplishment.

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