Row delays curb in EU car emissions

Click to follow

The launch of Europe-wide plans to cap car emissions has had to be delayed after a bitter internal row and warnings that Germany's best-known car makers could be driven out of business.

Due to be unveiled today, the proposal has fallen victim to open warfare between Günther Verheugen, the European industry commissioner, and Stavros Dimas, his colleague responsible for environment policy.

Yesterday the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, stepped in, delaying the announcement but throwing his weight behind new legislation, the impact of which would extend beyond car makers.

Mr Barroso is particularly angry about the rift because it comes just two weeks after the European Commission produced a coherent strategy for promoting growth and combating climate change.

A Commission spokeswoman said: "The president believes that there is a need for legislation to meet the targets which are set by the Commission, namely the 120 grams [of CO2] per kilometre that has been discussed here on occasion, by 2012."

Mr Verheugen backs the target, but has insisted on an "integrated approach" which would mean looking at all the factors that affect emissions, including fuel, tyres, lubricants and transport policy, including traffic management and measures to reduce speed.

By contrast Mr Dimas's element of the draft proposal concentrates the burden of change on engine makers. One critic argued that if the 120 grams per kilometre target were imposed on all cars - including high performance models - that would be mean "having to close Daimler Chrysler, BMW, Audi and Porsche".

Mr Verheugen has won the support of the Commission president for the "integrated approach". However, he has shifted his position and now accepts the inevitability of legislation - though he argues this will take time to draft and that the method of achieving reductions remains unclear. The industry commissioner favours the inclusion of cars in an emissions trading scheme, though some experts reject this idea as impractical.

Car makers in Europe have a voluntary agreement to reduce CO2 emissions from new cars to an industry average of 140 grams per km by 2008, but they are set to miss that target.