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Council largely backs EU Commission’s CO₂ targets for heavy-duty vehicles
EU | Brussels

Council largely backs EU Commission’s CO₂ targets for heavy-duty vehicles

17 Oct 2023 · Environment

The Council has disappointedly voted in support of the Commission’s overly ambitious CO₂ emission reduction targets for trucks and coaches. However, IRU welcomes the more realistic, nuanced targets for buses as well as the additional breathing space for high-capacity heavy trucks. These targets will determine the future of energy and heavy-duty vehicle production in the EU.

EU environment ministers have regretfully voted in support of the same emission reduction targets as originally proposed by the European Commission for most vehicle categories in the revision of CO standards for heavy-duty vehicles, which was submitted to EU legislators in February 2023

As of 2030, the Council supports an unrealistic 45% emission reduction target for manufacturers, representing a 15% increase compared to the current CO standard regulation targets. By 2040, the target will escalate to 90%. 

On a positive note, the Council’s general approach offers much-needed flexibility for high-capacity trucks: vehicles which are heavier or longer than standard combinations and for which propulsion alternatives are – currently and in the near future – extremely limited. 

For city buses, the Council pushed back on the European Commission’s 100% target for 2035, lowering the 2030 target to 85%. It also made an important distinction between city and intercity buses, recognising the significant differences between urban and interurban buses.

IRU EU Advocacy Director Raluca Marian said, “The Council’s position is really a hit and miss for small and medium-sized operators, the foundation of EU mobility networks and supply chains. 

“In practical terms, it means that in only six years’ time, no more than half of newly produced trucks and coaches will have the same technologies we see on the road today. This completely ignores the reality that the infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles will not be ready for massive deployment in urban areas and networks of EU roads. Even the current 30% target is challenging to reach.

“Even though the Council kept a small 10% margin for carbon-neutral fuelled trucks beyond 2040, this window might prove to be too little to incentivise manufacturers and fuel producers to build and support carbon-neutral trucks, which are absolutely necessary for certain operations.

“It’s a bit better on the passenger side. We welcome the Council’s injection of nuance and dose of reality into the legislation by clarifying the distinction between city and intercity buses.”

Review clause

As advocated for by the industry, the Council decided to anticipate the targets’ review clause from 2028 to 2027, which will provide the new EU political leadership coming in next year sufficient time to finish the file before the 2030 deadline.

One of the issues the Commission will have to report on in its review is progress in the deployment of public and private recharging and refuelling infrastructure for alternative fuels for vehicles covered by this regulation.

In its review, the Commission will also have to produce an assessment of the role of a carbon correction factor to adjust vehicle CO emissions for compliance, considering greenhouse gas emission intensity and the share of carbon-neutral fuels.

“The EU should by no means push back the date of the review clause. 2027 should be the absolute latest date for the EU to review whether the enabling conditions are in place to meet the extremely ambitious targets it has set for the industry,” highlighted Raluca Marian. 

“The long overdue carbon correction factor will play a critical role in ensuring that the transition is not detrimental to EU citizens and economies. It is therefore unfortunate that the Council’s general approach has postposed its introduction into law. The carbon correction factor will ensure predictability for future investments by transport operators in clean fuels,” she added.

The general approach will serve as the Council’s mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament. The outcome of the negotiations will be formally adopted by the Council and the Parliament.

“We hope that the European Parliament is able to muster a more pragmatic approach. The emission targets that the EU agrees on will have dramatic repercussions for all the sectors that form the road transport industry. It will determine the future of technologies for the trucks, buses and coaches that our sector can acquire in the very near future,” concluded Raluca Marian.

Ahead of next week’s decisive vote in the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), IRU hosted a roundtable discussion on CO emission standards in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today.

The meeting provided an avenue for parliamentarians and the industry to exchange views on pragmatic solutions to reduce road transport’s CO emissions while maintaining a good functioning of the EU’s mobility networks and supply chains.