The EU adopts new emission standards for vehicles

From general to specific


The European Union has been known for its proactive stance on climate change. In November 2018, the European Commission adopted a long-term vision for Europe’s climate-neutral development, where EU countries will emit as much greenhouse gases as they are able to absorb by 2050. Different economic, political and financial instruments can be used to achieve this goal. This will allow the EU to take a leading position in the global strategy against climate change while contributing towards the goals set by the Paris Agreement: limiting the planet’s temperature rise within 2°C with the prospect to keep it within 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period.


Similar to the Low Emission Development Strategy of Ukraine for the period up to 2050, the European Strategy aims are not to set specific goals for 2050, but to create a vision for a long-term EU development. The comprehensive document «A European Strategic Long-Term Vision for a Prosperous, Modern, Competitive and Climate-neutral Economy» examines options for the development of different sectors and provides a basis for discussion on the EU’s development vision with many stakeholders at various levels in order to adopt the relevant document in 2020.


However, setting ambitious goals requires the agreed cooperation among many participants, not only in regards to discussing these goals but also, perhaps more importantly, in achieving them. Numerous EU institutions are making consistent efforts to achieve these goals, though seemingly unrealistic from today’s perspective. That is why medium-term targets for multiple sectors are adopted by 2020 and 2030.


For example, in the transport sector, the European Commission is gradually introducing a number of initiatives for the development of innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation to ensure safe mobility of vehicles causing less environmental pollution through implementation of progressive technological solutions. These approaches include:


  • integrated road safety policy with vehicle and infrastructure safety measures in place;
  • first CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles and passenger cars;
  • a strategic plan for battery development and production in Europe;
  • a promising strategy for integrated and automated mobility.



Challenges create opportunities


As greenhouse gas emissions from the EU transport sector (primarily from the vehicles) not only had declined insignificantly but also have had a tendency to increase since 2014, accounting for almost 25% of all EU carbon emissions. The attention of politicians and public got attracted to this sector that was usually out of tight regulation. Since the transport sector not being covered by the European Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading System, therefore, its activities are regulated through other instruments, such as defined emission standards per kilometre. Such data was typically determined using laboratory methods of measurement until a high-profile scandalous case with Volkswagen in 2015 (Dieselgate) revealed differences between the carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in the laboratory and in real conditions (in the laboratory, the figures showed below the actual figures during the real-life trips). This identified the need to both review the existing and develop new legislation in this area. From 2017, new car models for sale in EU countries have been required to undergo a more rigorous laboratory test in addition to the real-life emissions testing. Furthermore, from September 2018, this requirement has been applied to all new cars in the region.


Implementation of new legislation step-by-step


In November 2017, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to regulate the reduction of CO2 emissions from new passenger and light commercial vehicles. Following public consultations in 2016 and assessing the potential impact of different policies, the European Commission developed a proposal setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars and for new light commercial vehicles in 2020, 2025 and 2030. As a result of an interinstitutional trialogue, the process of agreement of the vision on the proposed policy between the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission, a tentative agreement was reached in December 2018. It included targets for CO2 emissions for new cars in 2030 at the level of 62.5% (i.e. a 37.5% decrease) compared to the average level of CO2 emissions in 2021. For commercial vehicles, this figure would be 69% (or a 31% decrease). For both types of cars, the emission reductions should reach 15% in 2025 compared to the base year. The agreement also provides incentives for manufacturers/ sellers of low-carbon/ carbon-neutral vehicles for the transition to new procedures for measuring greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Additionally, in 2023, the European Commission will be required to review the effectiveness of the Regulation and propose necessary amendments.


In addition, in May 2017, the European Commission adopted a similar regulatory document on setting CO2 emission performance standards for heavy-duty vehicles. Under this proposal, in 2025, the average CO2 emissions from new heavy-duty vehicles should be 15% lower than those in 2019; and in 2030, they should be at least 30% below the baseline. Such targets set a long-term direction for development. Additionally, a review will take place in 2022 to include additional information on new technologies required to achieve emission reductions. As emissions from large lorries account for 65% — 70% of all CO2 emissions from the entire fleet of heavy-duty vehicles in the EU, it is recommended to implement CO2 emission standards for this type of vehicles as a first step. Subsequently, in 2022, the scope will include other types of vehicles, such as smaller lorries, buses, coaches and trailers. In February 2019, this document was agreed through a trialogue between the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission.


The next steps should include the adoption of agreed documents by the European Parliament and the Council, after which the documents will be officially published and enforced.


While one of the reasons for the changes described above in the EU was the Dieselgate case (which drew attention to the problem of emissions from the vehicles and their calculation), the European Commission began addressing the problem by improving emission measurement methods, setting new medium/ long-term targets and standards for greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening control, and creating incentives for expansion of low carbon/ carbon-neutral vehicles.


As to Ukraine, there is still lack of systematic, targeted policy to calculate emissions from the vehicles and their reduction. More often than not, conflict with consequences arise not with causes (e.g. looking for options on cheaper customs clearances of second-hand EU cars), without understanding that change will be possible only when the initiatives are not unique activities of green activists or politicians, instead are a part of systemic policy with the state priority.

Дата публікації: 12.03.2019