‘Game over for the internal combustion engine’ as EU countries approve climate measures

The 27 countries of the European Union have struck a deal to back tougher climate rules that would eliminate carbon emissions from new cars by 2035. (Michael Sohn/Associated Press)

After protracted and fierce talks, the 27 countries of the European Union reached an agreement on Wednesday to back tougher climate rules that would eliminate carbon emissions from new cars by 2035.

EU member countries have reached agreement on a draft law aimed at reduce the bloc’s greenhouse gases by at least 55% in 2030 from 1990 levels, rather than 40%.

“A long but good day for climate action: the Council decisions on Fitfor55 are a big step towards delivering the European Green Deal,” said Frans Timmermans, European Commission Vice-President in charge of the Green Deal, after the meeting of environment ministers in Luxembourg.

Agreement on the five laws proposed by the EU executive last year paves the way for final negotiations with the European Parliament. European lawmakers back ambitious bloc-wide goals. Final approval of the legislative package requires the European parliament to resolve differences with the bloc’s national governments over various details.

“The Council is now ready to negotiate with the European Parliament on the conclusion of the package, thus placing the European Union more than ever at the forefront of fight against climate change“, said Agnès Pannier-Runacher, French Minister for Energy Transition.

The move to introduce a 100% CO2 emissions reduction target by 2035 for new cars and vans would in effect ban the sale in the 27-nation bloc of new petrol or diesel cars.

Europe’s leading clean transport campaign group, Transport and Environment, said the EU government’s deal was “historic” as it “breaks the oil industry’s grip on transport”.

“It’s game over for the internal combustion engine in Europe,” the group said.

Greenpeace was more skeptical, saying the 2035 deadline was too late to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

The deal poses a daunting challenge to German automakers, which have long relied on sales of increasingly large and gas-guzzling vehicles for their profits.

After intense haggling within the three-party government coalition in Berlin, particularly between the Green Greens and the business-friendly Liberal Democrats, German officials voted in favor of the compromise overnight.

The German government said the deal would also see the European Commission make a proposal that will allow cars running exclusively on climate-neutral fuels to continue to be sold after 2035.

“It’s a huge step forward that sets the transport sector on the path to climate neutrality,” said German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, a member of the Greens. By declaring that only cars and light commercial vehicles that do not emit CO2 can be sold from 2035, “we are sending a clear signal that we need to meet the climate targets. This gives the automotive industry the planning certainty it needs.

The EU wants to drastically cut transport gas emissions by 2050 and promote electric cars, but a report by the bloc’s external auditor last year showed the bloc lacked charging stations. Transport accounts for around 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU,

As well as the landmark car deal, the package also includes a reform of the EU’s carbon market and the creation of a fund to help vulnerable households cope with the planned clean energy overhaul. This issue has become more politically sensitive as Russia’s war in Ukraine has sent fuel prices skyrocketing.

The overall aim is to put the EU on track to become climate neutral in 2050 and to entice other big polluters, including the US and China, to follow suit.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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