ECONOMY

EU president in accord with carmakers on CO2 time frame

LJUBLJANA – European carmakers have presented convincing arguments as they demand more time to meet proposed limits on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from their vehicles, EU presidency Slovenia said yesterday. «This argument, that it is too soon to adopt such a radical change, is quite convincing. We must be aware of this problem and we must solve it so that both sides are happy,» Slovenian Economy Minister Andrej Vizjak told Reuters in an interview. As part of a wider effort to cut emissions blamed for global warming, the European Commission has proposed tough legislation to reduce CO2 emissions from cars, with steep fines on manufacturers that fail to comply. The European Union’s executive body wants cars to meet by 2012 an average limit of 120 grams per kilometer of CO2 – the main greenhouse gas blamed for climate change. It wants engine technology to achieve a cut to 130 g/km, with other improvements in tires, gears and air conditioning to do the rest. But car producers are demanding at least three more years to meet the target, saying the cost of meeting the 2012 deadline would hurt the industry and undermine their ability to compete globally. «We understand the reservations of some European car production companies,» said Vizjak, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency in the first half of 2008. During the presidency, Slovenia oversees negotiations on CO2 car emissions among the EU’s 27 governments and the European Parliament. Vizjak said he was confident a deal would be reached in the second half of 2008 under the French presidency of the EU. A non-binding European Parliament report has backed the call for more time, saying manufacturers should reduce the average level of C02 emitted to 125 grams per kilometer by 2015. «Where there are clear and acceptable proposals, we will take it into account. These emissions from cars are extremely important from the point of view of the competitiveness of our car industry,» said Vizjak. Automakers say they will not be able to meet the 2012 deadline, considering the long production cycle of cars. Two-thirds of the vehicles that will be on the road in 2012 are being built at the moment, they say. German companies, such as Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are lobbying especially hard against an early deadline, because they produce luxury models with higher emissions than many other cars. Under the Commission’s proposal, fines on companies for non-compliance will start at -20 per new car for each excess gram per kilometer in 2012 on average over the whole fleet, and rise to -95 g/km in 2015.