A regulation forcing car makers to cut average CO2 emissions to 130g/km for their model ranges, or face hefty fines, has been declared illegal.
That was the decision of the EU Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee which met on 9 September, prompting fears that negotiations on targets, fines and start-dates may have to start from scratch next year.
Consumer web site www.cleangreencars.co.uk has also learned that committee members expressed "utmost misgivings" about methods for collecting fines from car makers and with plans to use these as revenue for European Union budgets.
"This decision is extremely serious," said Jay Nagley, Clean Green Cars publisher. "The committee said that the proper legal basis for the regulation is Article 175 of the EC Treaty which deals with environmental laws. But it has been drafted under Article 95, which prevents market distortions. This isn't just a technicality; the whole legal basis of the regulation could be challenged."
The new car CO2 regulation is self-evidently an environmental measure, so it is hardly surprising that this question has been raised. It appears that the EU wanted a single pan-European regulation, so has tried to squeeze it through under single market rules in Article 95.
However, this looks like putting the cart before the horse as the regulation is primarily an environmental measure. What the EU is trying to avoid is a rule which would allow far more flexibility. If proposals were to be re-drafted under Article 175, one country could set tougher CO2 limits than those in a neighbouring state.
The decision comes shortly after discussions in Parliament's Industry Committee. Its members infuriated socialist MEPs by tabling amendments to water-down CO2 targets, extend deadlines for compliance, and cut fines for car makers.
The Parliament's Environment Committee, which is leading the process, must now consider these views. It should have voted last week. However, amid rumours of heated rows and political tensions, the vote has been postponed until 25 September.
A plenary vote in parliament has been scheduled for 20 October. This is the date when elected representatives should have the opportunity to vote on final proposals, either paving the way for adoption of the rules by the end of the year, or dragging the issue on into 2009. The latter now seems most likely.
Press Release from www.cleangreencars.co.uk 15th September 2008