No need to “crush” automakers to reduce CO2 emissions

Emission caps will quash carmakers

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Luděk Vokáč

The impact of cars on the environment is not as negative as many predicted, according to a recent study. While carmakers are forced to meet completely unrealistic CO2 emissions limits beginning this year, there are other ways to reduce emissions without making automobile manufacturers suffer.

Strict measures put in place to the slow the spread of coronavirus have halted European automobile production for some time. Meanwhile, the pandemic has also dramatically reduced road traffic. The first has led to enormous economic pressure on carmakers. The second has revealed how little cars harm our environment.

However, beginning in 2020, new cars have to meet strict emissions limits, a maximum of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer. This year, certain allowances will make it easier to meet this target, but they will gradually disappear in the coming years while many carmakers remain far from reaching the set limits. Those automakers that do not comply with the new regulation will be subject to severe fines. If they exceed the limit by more than three grams, they will pay €95 for each extra gram of emitted CO2. So if the new car exceeds the limit by 13 grams, for example, and the company produces two million cars a year, they will pay over two billion euros in fines.

But now is the time to pour money into car manufacturers, not drain their finances. It is crucial to maintain employment and restart the economy. So it comes as no surprise that the Association of European Automobile Manufacturers (ACEA) has officially asked the European Union in recent days to postpone the strict limits. Although it may seem that the decision is up to EU institutions, it is not that simple, and, most likely, no relaxation of the rules will happen. That’s despite the fact that the coronavirus lockdown has revealed that cars, at least newer ones, are not as harmful to our environment as many have claimed. Measurements in many European cities have shown that emissions have not dropped proportionately to the reduction in road traffic. This suggests that cars and their negative environmental impacts might not be as significant as some people assume.

But the question is whether anyone will take these findings into account. Before the carmakers had a chance to discuss the current limits, various environmental groups called on the EU to stand firm and continue to urge compliance with the rules.

What is even worse, there is disagreement on the emission limits among automakers facing stiff competition. Some experts claim that the strict limits were enforced by the so-called “French clique” supported by Fiat. These manufacturers have traditionally made smaller cars and, therefore, thought they would meet the limits more easily while making the situation difficult for German carmakers, which traditionally produce larger cars.

But in the end, due to specific calculation mechanisms, the limits complicated the situation for everyone, including manufacturers of smaller cars. At the same time, German car manufacturers have started reorient toward production of electric, and their plan is clear: to avoid fines by massively investing in electric cars. This led to reports that Germans do not want to ease the limits after all.

It is not yet clear how this will turn out, but given the competition among carmakers, a joint approach to the issue remains unlikely, even though relaxing the limits would be the simplest and most inexpensive way to help the industry.

No, I do not think that cars should not be more environmentally friendly in the future, but the current trend was not healthy even before the coronavirus epidemic. The EU has introduced a rule saying “electrification or nothing” and such an approach is never good. Will the authorities change their stance once it is discovered that electricity is also an environmental issue?

Although some long-term pressure is necessary, it should not be come in the form of a dictate. Besides, there are many more ways to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions in the EU without “crushing” the carmakers. For example, a reduction in emissions from car production could be the first step as many manufacturers already have a strategy to achieve CO2 neutral production. Wouldn’t it be better to support this direction instead of penalizing car manufacturers?


Title image: Sebastian Lohse, left, and Heiko Gruner employees of German car producer Volkswagen Sachsen, work with face masks in the assembly of the ID.3 in the vehicle plant in Zwickau, Germany, Thursday, April 23, 2020. At carmaker Volkswagen, vehicle production restarts after a corona shutdown of more than five weeks. Production of the all-electric ID.3 will initially be restarted with reduced capacity and cycle time. Zwickau is the first VW vehicle plant in Germany to resume operations. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)


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