Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixteenth Report

10 Carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light commercial vehicles



COM(07) 19

Commission Communication on the results of the review of the Community strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles

Legal base
Document originated7 February 2007
Deposited in Parliament14 February 2007
Basis of considerationEM of 19 March 2007
Previous Committee ReportNone. But see footnotes.
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared, but relevant to the debate recommended on the Strategic Energy Review


10.1 Because of the large (and increasing) contribution which carbon dioxide from vehicles makes to overall emissions of greenhouse gases, the Community has taken a number of measures to address this issue, including voluntary agreements with European, Japanese and Korean manufacturers aimed at reducing the level of such emissions from new cars from 186g/km in 1995 to 140g/km by 2008-09.[17] In addition, the European Council has endorsed a target of 120g/km by 2012, and, in its Energy Efficiency Plan,[18] the Commission said that it will if necessary propose in 2007 legislation to ensure that latter target is achieved — an aim subsequently re-iterated in the Communication it put forward in January 2007 about limiting global climate change.[19]

The current document

10.2 According to the Commission, the latest information available (for 2004) suggests that the 140g/km target for 2008-09 is unlikely to be met, and that additional measures, including a legislative requirement for vehicles to meet a target of 120g/km by 2012, are needed to complement the measures which it has already proposed on fuel quality.[20] Part of this reduction (to 130g/km) would be delivered by improvements in vehicle technology, and the remaining 10g/km by a range of other measures, notably:

  • minimum efficiency standards for air-conditioning systems;
  • the mandatory fitting of tyre pressure monitoring systems;
  • maximum tyre rolling resistance limits for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles;
  • the fitting of gear shift indicators;
  • mandatory targets for fuel efficiency in vans (of 175g/km by 2012 and 160g/km by 2015); and
  • increased use of biofuels "maximising environmental performance".

10.3 The Commission also suggests other potential measures which would not form part of the 120g/km legislative target, and which would be either subject to other EU legislation, non-legislative measures, or pursued by individual Member States. These include:

—  Taxation

    The Commission recalls its earlier proposal[21] for a Directive which would require Member States to base registration taxes, such as Vehicle Excise Duty, increasingly on carbon dioxide emission levels, and it encourages Member States to adopt this measure as soon as possible, and to adapt their taxation policies so as to promote the purchase of fuel efficient cars. In the meantime, it suggests that there should be a "Light-duty Environmentally Enhanced Vehicle" for those which meet the emission standards laid down.

—  Consumer labelling and information

    The Commission says that it will put forward in 2007 a proposal to harmonise design of the existing mandatory fuel efficiency label across the Community, and to extend its application to vans. It also suggests that manufacturers should agree to a voluntary code of good-practice on marketing and advertising.

—  Driver behaviour

    The Commission suggests that Member States should be encouraged to promote fuel efficient driving ("eco driving"), and that a requirement relating to this should be included in future revisions of the Driving Licence Directive.[22]

—  Research towards a lower long-term emissions target

    The Commission says that it will support research towards a 40% reduction in passenger car emissions of carbon dioxide (equivalent to 95g/km in 2020).

The Government's view

10.4 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 19 March 2007, the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) points out that the Commission has stated that the legislation will be "compatible with" the Kyoto Protocol; be based on an impact assessment; expect to take into account recent vehicle technology; be "socially equitable"; and avoid distortion in manufacturer competition, but that the Communication gives no details as to how its aims will be achieved, or what the penalties would be for non-compliance. He adds that the UK endorses the Commission's intention to carry out a thorough analysis before taking decisions on possible options, but points out that, without concrete proposals, it is not possible at this stage to say what the implications would be for the UK.

10.5 Nevertheless, the Minister goes on to comment on various aspects of the Communication. He points out that the target of 120g/km is a headline one, existing only as an average across the whole new vehicle market, and that its consequences would depend on how it is framed and what kind of flexibility is available to meet it. Moreover, even without these uncertainties, it is difficult to predict such elements as costs to consumers, but the Government is carrying out work in this area, and intends to produce a Regulatory Impact Assessment as more information becomes available. In the meantime, he says that there is already some evidence of costs and benefits, in a study carried out for the Commission, which found that meeting the 130g/km target would cost manufacturers around £54) per vehicle (corresponding to an increase in the retail price of around £840).

10.6 As regards the other measures proposed, the Minister says that:

  • caution is needed over the contribution which mandatory air-conditioning efficiency levels can make to carbon dioxide savings, as there is not yet an agreed standard test procedure for determining efficiency, and the impact of air-conditioning on fuel efficiency is determined to a large extent by driving conditions;
  • although tyre inflation is a common problem, and can substantially decrease vehicle fuel efficiency, no information is available on the impact of mandatory fitting of tyre pressure monitoring systems;
  • a study has suggested that tyres with lower rolling resistance could make fuel savings of around 3.5% across the Community, but it is not known if the UK differs from other Member States, and, without having a figure for the likely mandatory tyre rolling resistance limits, it is difficult to know if less resistant tyres would represent a net cost or benefit to the consumer: also, in addition to existing legislative requirements on safety, any such approach would need to take into account environmental and consumer considerations, and it is necessary to establish whether the proposal would apply to reconditioned tyres, as well as those supplied as part of new vehicles, or as new replacement tyres for existing vehicles;
  • although changing gear appropriately can save 6% in fuel, it is not apparent whether the fitting of gear shift indicators would be compulsory, and much would depend upon the extent to which warning systems are actually acted upon; and
  • the Commission does not explain its rationale for proposing further new legislation to cover biofuels, given the existing proposal to amend the Fuel Quality Directive and the package of other measures it has recently recommended, and nor does it explain how it would calculate the carbon dioxide reduction arising from increased biofuel use.

On this last point, the Minister also says that, whilst the UK supports an increase in the use of sustainable biofuels as an important contribution to tackling carbon dioxide emissions from the road transport sector, it is important that the plethora of Commission initiatives in this area are progressed in a coherent way.

10.7 As regards the other measures mentioned in the Communication, but on which the Commission does not intend to legislate on directly, the Minister says:

—  Taxation

    The UK already sets Vehicle Excise Duty partly according to vehicle emission levels, but the proposed Directive would require this Duty (or similar taxes) to be based 25% on fuel efficiency, rising to 50%, and the UK has not agreed to this, on the grounds that domestic taxation is not a matter for the Community.

—  Consumer labelling and marketing

    Given that the step proposed on marketing and advertising would be voluntary, there is unlikely to be any negative impact, but the impact of any harmonisation of the fuel efficiency label would depend on what this entailed, and, whilst the Government is sympathetic, the label must remain accessible to those who will actually be using it.

—  Driver behaviour

    The Driving Licence Directive already contains references to "eco-driving", in addressing test content, and the Communication does not spell out whether it is this which the Commission wishes to see further addressed, or the learning process which must be undergone before the test is taken. The latter would represent a major extension of Community competence, and one that would need further discussion. However, the Government has recently launched a campaign aimed at educating aspects of driver behaviour such as correct gear-changing.


10.8 Although this document represents a further move towards the introduction of a statutory requirement for vehicles to meet an emissions target of 120g/km, it does not in itself constitute such a proposal. Consequently, although we think it right to draw it to the attention of the House, we are clearing it. However, as the various steps suggested in the Communication need to be considered alongside the range of other measures[23] which we considered recently in the context of the Strategic Energy Review (An energy policy for Europe),[24] we think that this latest document — like them — is relevant to the debate which we have recommended on that Review (and which we understand is to take place on 24 April).

17   Other such measures include consumer information on emissions and fuel consumption, and fiscal incentives to promote fuel efficient cars. Back

18   (27944) 14349/06: see HC 41-ii (2006-07), para 8 (29 November 2006). Back

19   (28275) 5422/07: see HC 41-x (2006-07), para 1 (21 February 2007). Back

20   (28348) 5389/07: see HC 41-x (2006-07), para 20 (21 February 2007) and (28351) 6145/07: see HC 41-xiv (2006-07), para 1 (14 March 2007). Back

21   (26714) 11067/05: see HC 34-vi (2005-06), para 11 (19 October 2005) and HC 34-xi (2005-06), para 8 (23 November 2005). Back

22   Council Directive 91/439/EEC. OJ No. L.237, 24.8.91, p.1. Back

23   See HC 41-x (2006-07), paras 15-20 (21 February 2007). Back

24   (28276) 5282/07: see HC 41-x (2006-07), para 2 (21 February 2007). Back

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