By Ray Fleming
ARE the proposals, announced yesterday by the European Commission, for limiting carbon emissions from cars “the most ambitious target anywhere in the world” or “a climb down under pressure from the motor industry”? Perhaps predictably, the boast came from the European Commissioner for the environment, Stavros Dima, while the criticism was that of Friends of the Earth. In fact, there is probably some truth in both points of view.

Currently, cars in Europe emit an average 160 grammes of carbon per kilometre. The EU's proposal is that by 2012 all new cars must meet a mandatory CO2 emissions cap of 130 grammes/km. Commissioner Dima initially wanted a cap of 120 grammes/km but had to yield to strong opposition from the Commissioner for industry, Gunter Verheugen who argued the case made by German car manufacturers that the higher level would add some 4'000 euros to the cost of a new car and lead to the loss of thousands of jobs. The French and Italian car producers have been less hostile to the new measures because they make smaller and more energy-efficient cars than the Germans. It is important to note that the restrictions proposed by the Commission will apply to all cars imported into the European Union.

There is a long debate ahead before these measures become law but the EU has shown that it intends to do more than talk about the need for action against global warming and climate change.

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