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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 18:34 GMT
EU plans attack on car emissions
By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

Mercedes SUV
Bigger cars may find it harder to cut their emissions cheaply
The cost of "gas-guzzling" cars could soar in five years' time under plans from the European Commission.

The commission wants to impose mandatory efficiency standards on all new vehicles sold in Europe as part of a master plan to combat climate change.

Some of the UK's best-known carmakers could be hardest-hit.

Currently the EU has a voluntary agreement with motor manufacturers - but they have infuriated the commission by missing their target by almost 50%.

Tougher stance

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas now wants mandatory standards that will allow the average car to emit just 120 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre.

That would mean a 1.6 litre petrol Ford Focus would need to cut emissions by a third to qualify as an average vehicle under the new regime.

Car manufacturers will be able to average out their overall CO2 targets over their entire range of vehicles.

But it is clear that heavyweight luxury cars like Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Range Rovers will have to invest far more in costly low-pollution technology to reduce their emissions than smaller lighter cars.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas
Mr Dimas wants people to wage war on climate change

Britain's Society of Motor Manufacturers said the plans threatened jobs in the car industry, particularly for specialist manufacturers.

They forecast that the plan would add as much as 2,500 euros (1,650) to some cars, and they warned that European makers would lose out to imported models.

Mr Dimas said the new rules would apply equally to imports, adding that the EU would offer tax breaks to carmakers to help the transition to lower-emission vehicles.

He admitted that costs would rise for buyers of top-of-the-range vehicles, but said higher costs for the average consumer would be outweighed by fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.

Global battle

The proposals underpin the commission's recently unveiled climate masterplan, and will be discussed by politicians shortly.

The plan may face political opposition, but climate is changing the industrial landscape in a way that may persuade Europe's politicians that it is kind to be tough on their own carmakers.

California has set a benchmark for fuel-efficient vehicles that will make it increasingly hard for the manufacturers of gas-guzzlers.

Detroit's carmakers - traditional opponents of fuel efficiency standards - are now finding themselves trailing in the race to make cleaner vehicles.

Mr Dimas told BBC News that people should start talking about climate change as a war.

It could lead to the death of millions of people, and it could transform the world economy into a war economy, where every sector was involved in the fight against climate change.

As a result, he said rising emissions from transport were a problem that had to be tackled.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Interview with Stavros Dimas



SEE ALSO
EU plans 'industrial revolution'
10 Jan 07 |  Science/Nature
EU warns inefficient energy firms
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Q&A: EU Common Energy Policy
08 Jan 07 |  Europe
Climate 2006: Rhetoric up, action down
29 Dec 06 |  Science/Nature
EU embarks on tough carbon cuts
30 Nov 06 |  Business

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