Rhein on Energy and Climate

After six months of tough negotiations, the EU has reached a compromise for the Co2 emission ceilings applicable to passenger cars over the next decade. The new regulation will be applicable as of 2021, one year late than initially foreseen. It will fix the average ceiling of Co2 emissions at 95 g/km – compared to 130 g applicable in 2015. An average of four litres of gasoline per 100 km represents an achievement to be proud of.

That said, EU passenger car emissions account for no more than 12% of total Co2 emissions – almost peanuts compared to those from heating buildings, industry and even agriculture that are responsible for the bulk of EU emissions.

This trend is most likely to continue. Cars have ceased to be a major status symbol for the young generation. In cities they are becoming more of a nuisance than a help because of increasing traffic jams and scarce parking space, inducing people to switch to public transport.

Fuel consumption and Co2 emissions are expected to fall dramatically with the large-scale arrival of cars propelled by electric and fuel-cell engines within the next 20 years.

In the USA we observe a similar development with much tougher fuel consumption standards in the next few years.

The major challenge for the international community is to generalise the EU/US fuel consumption standards and reduce fuel consumption to three litre/100 km. This should not be difficult: the passenger car industry is globally integrated; and the technology for low-consumption hybrid, electric, fuel-cell engines is generally available.

It should therefore be possible for global Co2 emissions from passenger cars to fall by at least 40 per cent until 2050, despite a further increase of motorisation in emerging countries. That might be a positive aspect for the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris.

Humanity should therefore focus its attention on reducing emissions heating and cooling buildings. That is where the big sinners are located.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 30/11/2013


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