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Let’s tackle Europe’s diesel disgrace now

Submitted by on 07 Jan 2019 – 12:50

When I sat down with European Commissioner for Climate Action Miguel Arias Cañete for our first trilogue on October 10th, both the European Council and the European Parliament presented their positions on the Regulation setting the emission performance standards for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

It was the first in a series of interinstitutional negotiations that will follow, and its objective was to set the tone for the discussions that follow. Just a few days before, the European Parliament gave a strong mandate for the negotiations to kick off, with a solid result of 389 members voting in favour.

As the lead negotiator on this legislative proposal, I fought hard for a Parliament position that endorsed a CO2 emissions cut from new cars of 20% by 2025 and a 40% cut by 2030. It was a clear position that carmakers should ensure that zero- and low-emission vehicles make up a 35% market share of sales of new cars and vans by 2030 and 20% by 2025.

But on the eve of the first trilogue, the Council of Ministers agreed to a 15% target by 2025 and a 35% by 2030 for cars, leaving several member states disappointed with the final outcome.

Several states insisted that the so-called general approach adopted by the Council had become weaker as the discussions progressed.

I must admit that I am not convinced of the outcome as well, more so because the European Union has placed itself as “a leader” in the fight against climate change and the reduction of greenhouse gases. Such a fight cannot stop at words but requires concrete and meaningful action from us all, including policymakers, industry players and stakeholders, together with measures that rope in consumers as well.

When I took on the rapporteurship of this legislative file, I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve and my resolve strengthened the more I held meetings with the carmakers, technical experts, social partners, consumer organisations and environmental NGOs. Here is our opportunity to harness a global challenge and put Europe’s car manufacturing industry at the forefront before other continents take over.

The continued decarbonisation of the transport sector is in line with the commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles is an opportunity on multiple fronts: safeguarding the environment, reducing the impact of pollution on our health, increasing the supply of clean cars on the market, making them more affordable for consumers, investing in infrastructure to make the transition happen, boosting innovation and competitiveness and investing even more in our workers.

The Parliament is also mandating the Commission to propose legislation that would provide consumers with accurate and comparable information on the fuel consumption and to develop a real-world CO2 emissions test, with the aim of using it for compliance purposes.

Concerns were raised about jobs. As the European Parliament, we are strongly advocating for a socially acceptable and just transition towards zero-emission mobility. The EU can, and should, promote skill development and retraining of workers in the sector in order to help the transition to clean mobility.

Doubts were raised about the capacity and capability in infrastructural investments in Europe.

I believe that market forces will push development in the right direction. We can help this process with policy measures being proposed in the Parliamentary text, namely by finding synergies between political, economic and financial stakeholders working together across the European Union, regional and local levels and also supported by stronger Union funding instruments.

As we dedicate the coming weeks to negotiating among the three institutions, I look forward towards a constructive and productive approach. At the end of the day, it is our duty as policymakers to ensure a deal with a long-term vision for all.

Miriam Dalli MEP reviews Europe’s position as leader in climate change.