Rhein on Energy and Climate

After two years of deliberations the European Parliament has its given green light to a Commission proposal for tightening emission standards for light commercial vehicles, vans and mini-trucks. The approval by the Council will be no more than a formality so that light commercial vehicles can become subject to similar rules as passenger cars, for which the EU has adopted stricter standards three years ago.

Once again the debate has been marked by strong opposition from member countries, essentially Germany, France and Italy, with substantial production of such vehicles. Consequently, the Commission had to compromise on less stringent emission standards and longer transition periods. By 2020 new light commercial vehicles must not emit more than 147 g C02/km, compared to 135 g proposed by the Commission and 200 g today.

Light commercial vehicles account for only 1.5 percent of EU C02 emissions. The impact on climate change will therefore be negligible. Once all vehicles will have incorporated the new standards, which will not be before 2025-30, EU C02 emissions

might be about 0.1 percent (!) lower than in the absence of the new regulation.

Most probably manufacturers would have undertaken the engine changes anyhow in order to make their vehicles more energy-efficient and competitive in view of rising oil prices.

The adoption of the new standards by the EU is therefore no more than a footnote in the fight against climate change; and it really does not matter much that the Commission have been watered down during the legislative procedure.

The Commission should rapidly engage in more crucial battle fields in order to live up to its long-term objective of reducing EU emissions by at least 80 percent until 2050. The energetic renovation of the building stock should be the priority target for EU efforts to raise energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Let us hope the forthcoming Commission proposals on energy efficiency will target more meaningful fields and propose a multi-annual investment programme for improving thermal insulation of the – public and private – building stock.

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