Gas war: Europe reaches agreement on banning combustion in 2035
The Czech Republic, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, has announced that negotiators from member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission have finally met to agree on the oft-mentioned burning ban. By 2035, all automakers operating on the continent will have to reduce their emissions by 100%, which will effectively dictate what kind of vehicles can be sold there.
“We have just completed negotiations on CO2 levels for cars”, Pascal Canfin, French MEP, head of the European Parliament’s environmental committee, tweeted this week. “Historic EU climate decision that definitively confirms the target of 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2035 with intermediate phases between 2025 and 2030.”
If you think this has ever happened, you’d be right – in a way. EU leaders say all companies must adopt tough emissions standards for years, with members frequently advancing the principle of restricting access to combustion vehicles. This has involved concepts such as geo-fenced cities that only allow all-electric, internet-connected cars and ban automakers from selling anything with a tailpipe after a phase-out period.
This came to a head in 2021, when the European Commission proposed a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions from automobiles by 2030 compared to current levels. This is much higher than the previous reduction of 37.5% forecast for the same period. But it included the same ban on combustion engine vehicles that was scheduled for 2035.
“This is the kind of ambition we’ve been waiting to see from the EU, where it has been lacking in recent years,” said Helen Clarkson, chief executive of the Climate Group, backed by EU and led by activists. “Science tells us we need to halve emissions by 2030, so for road transport it’s simple – get rid of the internal combustion engine.”
The update is that the European Parliament and the European Council have finally reached an agreement and can now begin the formal process of adoption of the proposal by member states, as well as the necessary application. Although it technically cannot force companies to become carbon neutral, despite EU leaders’ claims to the contrary, because electric vehicles still produce pollution indirectly from the power plants that produce their energy. This also applies to the manufacturing process, which is often less environmentally friendly than what is required for traditional combustion vehicles due to the mining and industrial effort required to assemble the batteries.
“This is the start of a great transition in the European Union,” said Jan Huitema, the Parliament’s main negotiator.
Although it can also be unpopular. In recent years, the European Commission has emerged singularly focused on creating a “green economy” and has been pushed back by other parts of the world who don’t want its role as the world’s largest trading bloc to influence their products. Europe is effectively forcing global automakers to transition to electric vehicles at an accelerated pace. But countries where driving distances tend to be longer (e.g. Canada, Mexico, and the United States) have shown to be a little less keen on adopting them. Some automakers have addressed this issue, suggesting they will need to build more models to cater to varying consumer tastes. But others said they were fine with going all-electric, even if it meant losing business in parts of the world where the energy grid is less robust or where residents simply aren’t sold on electric vehicles being a desirable alternative to gasoline or diesel. motorized vehicles.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen, Stellantis, Ford, Bentley and Jaguar have all said they will stop selling combustion cars in Europe by 2035, if not sooner. Other automakers have expressed a desire for clear and concrete EU guidance on the matter, so they can hopefully comply without incurring financial penalties.
However, there are already some exceptions to the new rules. Manufacturers producing specialist vehicles in small series will be entitled to a one-year grace period for all emissions targets. This apparently includes high-end automakers aimed at affluent customers – like Lamborghini – despite the fact that some of these brands are said to be owned by much larger companies (VW in the case of Lamborghini) moving millions of cars a year.
Additionally, member states pushed for a non-binding article that asks the European Commission to allow vehicles running exclusively on carbon-neutral fuels after 2035 to continue to be registered. Although we have seen some of the dangers of producing ethanol from corn, biofuels are currently getting a lot of attention in Europe. Companies are also working on the chemical hydrogenation of carbon dioxide to create synthetic alternatives, with German companies arguably leading the charge. But there are plenty of lingering questions about how the above solutions can actually be made truly carbon neutral.
Although the general plan receives a lot of praise from various pressure groups, government institutions and environmental activists, the plan can be seen as controversial and increasingly political. Citizens appear divided on the issue and often along party lines, with dissenters fearing it will force them to buy vehicles they don’t really want to pay for. However, there are also voices claiming that this will effectively wipe out the European economy and cripple the automotive sector.
“With today’s agreement, a ‘Havana effect’ becomes more realistic,” said Jens Gieseke, MP and negotiator for the conservative European People’s Party, quoted by Automotive News. “After 2035, our streets could fill with old cars because new cars are either unavailable or unaffordable. Today’s agreement closed the door to new technological developments and put all the eggs in the same basket. It’s a mistake.”
This premise refers to what happened in Cuba after trade restrictions and sweeping regulations made importing new vehicles prohibitively expensive, forcing residents to maintain older cars for decades, even when spare parts have become unavailable. While that seems a little too specific to be replicated perfectly by the EU, valid concerns remain about the kind of tech support that will be offered to EVs as they get long in the tooth (see: Unprofitable) and how healthy the market will be in such an inflexible regulatory environment.
That said, many prominent voices still support the EU decision. Many happen to be linked to environmental groups backed by some of the biggest corporations around the world. One of the best examples is the environmental pressure group Transport & Environment (T&E). In addition to funded directly by the European Commissionit is also financially backed and supported by environmental groups who are – in turn – often funded by governments or large corporations of their own.
“The days of the carbon-spitting, pollution-spitting combustion engine are finally numbered. It’s been 125 years since Rudolf Diesel revolutionized engine efficiency, but lawmakers have decided that the next chapter will be written by the electric vehicle more clean and better. For the planet and human health, this can’t come fast enough,” said Julia Poliscanova, Senior Director of Electric Vehicles and Mobility for T&E.
[Image: VanderWolf Images/Shutterstock]
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