The proposals to phase out internal combustion were first put forward last year, the day after the UK government put into place a similar scheme which would make it all but illegal for car makers to build petrol or diesel cars and vans. Since then, lawmakers for the world’s most powerful trading bloc backed the proposals, but it has only now been voted on.
After a meeting in Luxembourg which went on late into the night, the European Council of Environmental Ministers agreed that there will be a 55 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions for cars by 2030, and a 50 per cent reduction in emissions for vans. Subsequently, the emissions limits for cars and vans will be reduced to zero by 2035, essentially killing off the production of new internal combustion, non-heavy vehicles.
Whilst the decision was broadly considered to be a foregone conclusion thanks to wider EU emissions regulations which will see a 55 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2035 and net zero by 2050, there was still plenty of push-back from some quarters.
Getting the legislation over the line essentially relied on Germany’s backing, and its coalition government was wavering over the detail, with ‘e-fuel’ powered, internal combustion cars put on the exceptions list. If they hadn’t reached a consensus, the ban would likely have been watered down thanks to opposition from Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia – all of which wanted to extend the life of ICE production.
Their arguments were simple; infrastructure, cost and consumer readiness to move over to the de facto alternative to ICE – EVs – would still be insurmountable barriers in 13 years. The fact that in 13 years the climate crisis could be exponentially worse if ICE wasn’t being phased out seemed less of a concern.
The agreed position, come the vote, saw a clause put in that would see the EU Commission look at whether e-fuel powered cars and light commercial vehicles could continue being registered after 2035. Whether that ever actually sees the light of day, time will literally tell.
Whilst some states pushed for an extension to ICE’s lifespan, others wanted to bring the date forward to 2030 – especially the more forward-thinking nations which have embraced EVs. For example, the Netherlands and Denmark were in favour of a 2030 ban, with 2035 being accepted as the minimum offer they would accept. Similarly, Spain and Sweden were strongly in favour of the ban, despite the challenges it presents.
In terms of the UK’s position, it is unchanged since it brought in the goal of banning most ICE cars by 2030, with only hybrids gaining exemption until 2035.
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