Europe has had its first vote on what sort of cars we will all drive in the future.
The proposed European Union law restricting CO2 emissions from cars is over its first hurdle: a vote on more than 20 amendments in the European Parliament’s environment committee.
First, it’s important - it will affect anyone who drives a car.
Then, I’m interested to see how the forces balance out: the powerful German-dominated car industry versus ever-growing concern about the environment. Will the original proposal be beefed up or watered down? Also, it’s a chance to educate myself on how exactly the EU makes a law - a practical civics lecture for both me and anyone else who is interested.
The environment committee was voting on the report written by British Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies, and the amendments to it tabled by committee members.
A number of his innovations were thrown out.
His plan to ban cars that do more than 100 mph was defeated.
He’d suggested giving the car manufacturers more time, but obliging them to meet a tougher target. That was thrown out, but so was the European Commission’s plan to include biofuels as part of the solution. So now the idea is manufacturers must reduce CO2 emissions to an average of 120g of carbon dioxide per kilometre by 2012, by engine emissions alone.
But Mr Davies isn’t disappointed. He told the committee that although his compromise had been rejected he was pleased because the result was “environmentally ambitious”.
Listen to him here.
The German Green on the Industry Committee, Rebecca Harms, said afterwards: “A large majority of MEPs voted for a binding average target of 120g/km to be achieved through engine technology alone. This is a welcome rejection of the so-called 'integrated approach' to this longstanding target - a dilution advocated by the car industry. We particularly welcome the support of the committee for the limit to be achieved by 2012. Delaying its introduction would only reward laggards and delay the necessary technical advances.”
The Tories in the European Parliament are striving to be more ambitious still.
“In order to offer the industry greater certainty with which to plan for the future, we recommend that an incoming Conservative government adopts an emissions target for new cars of between 80g and 100g by 2020," said their leader, Timothy Kirkhope.
"This target is merely a continuum of the downwards trajectory envisaged by the EU’s current proposal, which would see emissions reduce by 4-5% a year to 2012. Continuing this reduction path yields emissions of no more than 100g per kilometre by 2020.”
Labour MEP Glenis Willmott, a member of the environment committee, said:
"We firmly expect this vote to be a signal to the car industry to smarten up their act and to carry out the measures they themselves have agreed to. The 120g/km to be met on an obligatory basis by 2012 is the strongest message we can send to firms who have been dragging their feet and not understood that European consumers are now anxious to drive cleaner cars. Unless we have a strong European position on this issue, other car manufacturing countries outside the EU will steal the march on us."
For once a pretty common line from the politicians be they red, blue, green or yellow. But are they right?