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September 26, 2008 / Mridul

Europe Takes Car Manufacturers To Task Over Emissions

In a surprising though bold move the European Parliament rejected the demands of the car manufacturers and the proposals of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to weaken the penalties on vehicles that fail to satisfy the emission norms. The Members of the European Parliament refused to back down on their earlier decision saying that it was necessary to bring such strict measures now in order to reduce the growing carbon emissions. Angela Markel, who led the car manufacturers in their lobbying efforts had valid reasons for her opposition – Germany is the world leader in car manufacturing. But her efforts went in vain as the environment committee voted in favor of the proposal 46-19.

This proposal is a major part of Europe’s fight against climate change as it tries to achieve its goal of 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. Since the EU has already formulated policies for reducing the emissions from aircrafts (although it remains controversial), it is now targeting the automobile industry which contributes 14% of Europe’s carbon emissions. 

As part of its drive to lead the world in tackling climate change, the European commission last year proposed that all new cars would have to cut their CO2 emissions to 130 grammes per kilometre by 2012, roughly a 17% reduction on average emission levels.

The timing of such a proposal couldn’t have been better, as also felt by one of the groups supporting it.

The parliament appears to have stood up to the demands of the car industry and four or five car-producing member states, and has sent a strong signal that Europeans need fuel-efficient cars now, not in five or 10 years.

Oil prices have been making record highs in the recent past and substantial reduction in carbon emissions is nowhere in sight. The world has bore the burden of fossil fuels for centuries now and it is high time that we move over to newer and cleaner fuels as we leap ahead in our endeavour to reduce the carbon emissions and protect the environment. The recent show of defiance by the OPEC consortium and the subsequent decision to scale back production after the prices cooled down to below $100 only serve as a reminder that the world economy must not be left in hands of a few. 

The high gas prices should be seen as an incentive to move over the traditional automobiles and companies, with help and encouragement from the governments, must look to manufacturer ‘green vehicles’. Since the biofuels have failed to deliver as was anticipated electric cars and cars running on fuel cells must be given preference. Just as home owners are given incentives for installing solar panels and small wind mills, auto companies must also be given similar incentives in the form of tax breaks and subsidies to manufacture vehicles which give out less emissions. 

Europe and Germany, in specific, has made tremendous progress in installing state-of-the-art clean energy equipments and German model of Feed-in tariff has become a world standard. No doubt that European countries have taken lead in the the global fight against climate change and the impending shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy but in doing so it has also acquired the responsibility of spearheading global efforts to promote new energy systems. Nations around the world look up to Europe whenever talks of setting up any standards comes up therefore it is imperative that Europe takes the fight against climate change to the next level and force the car manufacturers to fall in line and produce automobiles that are eco-friendly.

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