The Commission last year unveiled plans to stop the sale of vehicles using internal combustion engines as part of an ambitious climate target to cut emissions by more than half over this decade and 90 percent by 2035.
The measure passed by 339 votes to 249 with 24 abstentions at a session in Strasbourg – in practice limiting future sales to emissions-free all-electric models.
Cars currently account for 12 percent of all CO2 emissions in the 27-member EU bloc, while transportation overall accounts for around a quarter.
The conservative European People’s Party (EPP), the parliament’s biggest group of lawmakers, had sought to push a compromise that would have diluted the proposals and allowed sales of hybrid vehicles to continue.
Their amendment was narrowly defeated while an ambitious attempt by the Greens to bring the measure deadline forward to 2030 also failed.
Conservatives were also unable to push through amendments on having a car’s production-related carbon footprint taken into consideration as well – potentially allowing carmakers credits for synthetic, so-called e-fuels, made with captured carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced from renewable sources.
After the vote, EU environmental committee chair Pascal Canfin triumphantly tweeted: “100 percent zero emission cars in 2035! I strongly welcome the vote on CO2 standards in the @Europarl_EN. This position of the European Parliament is an important victory and consistent with our objective of climate neutrality.”
100% zero emission cars in 2035 ! I strongly welcome the vote on CO2 standards in the @Europarl_EN. This position of the European Parliament is an important victory and consistent with our objective of climate neutrality. #GreenDeal
— Pascal Canfin (@pcanfin) June 8, 2022
German Green EU legislator Michael Bloss also hailed the vote as a move that would simultaneously protect the climate and jobs in the sector.
French EPP lawmaker Agnes Evren was less impressed, however, with a decision she said would “condemn industrial activity and strongly penalise consumers”.
She said the legislation would prevent the commercialisation of high-performance hybrid vehicles or vehicles using biofuels, whose production she said could potentially prove less expensive and less polluting than electric vehicles.
Blow to carbon market reform
Earlier Wednesday, EU lawmakers rejected a proposal to upgrade the bloc’s carbon market, an unexpected move that exposed divisions over the bloc’s core climate policy and could delay negotiations to finish the measure.
A committee of lawmakers must now try to forge a new compromise after chaotic scenes and a blame game erupted in Parliament.
Green and Socialist lawmakers rejected the proposal because of conservative groups’ amendments they said weakened it too much, while right-wing groups considered it too ambitious, especially in the light of inflationary pressures.
Parliament’s rejection meant votes on two related climate policies were postponed. They are the EU’s world-first plan to place a CO2 levy on imports of goods such as steel and cement, and a fund that would use emissions trading revenues to support low-income citizens.
The rare rejection could set back the timeframe for finishing the law – which the EU is racing to do this year, so it can apply in 2023.
The proposal was meant to confirm parliament’s position for negotiations on a new proposed law to reform the Emissions Trading System (ETS).
The EU’s main policy tool for cutting emissions, the ETS requires power plants and industry to buy CO2 permits when they pollute.
Along with other new climate policies, the ETS upgrade would put the EU, the world’s third biggest polluter, on track to cut net planet-warming emissions by 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels.
Canfin, whose committee will redraft the proposal, said negotiators will attempt to reach a new deal by June 23.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
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