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Car industry facing 18% CO2 cut

The European Commission is proposing forcing carmakers to make an 18% cut in CO2 emissions from new cars by 2012.

A spokesman said the commission was aiming for a 25% cut in car emissions overall, with the „bulk of the effort” coming from better motor technology. The rest of the cut is expected to be achieved by measures such as greater use of biofuels and better tyres. Details of the plan, which has divided the commission, will be unveiled on Wednesday after a two-week delay. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas had wanted to oblige carmakers to achieve the full 25% emissions cut alone, but ran into strong opposition from the German car industry and Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen. Industry sources say Dimas's proposal would have pushed up the cost of a new car by €2,500 ($3234), though other studies suggested the increase would be as low as €600 ($776). Reports from Brussels say the commission will propose a package of measures designed to bring emissions from the average new car down to 120g of CO2 per kilometer by 2012 - 25% below the 2005 level of 162g/km.

Carmakers would be responsible for getting emissions down to 130g/km through the use better car technology, under the commission proposal. Increased use of biofuels, better tyres and measures to ensure drivers change gear at the right time would help to save the extra 10g/km. European carmakers agreed in 1998 to aim for average emissions of 140g/km by 2008/9, but are no longer expected to meet this target. The EU originally wanted to get emissions under 120g/km by 2005, but the deadline slipped to 2012. The commission last week announced proposals designed to increase the use of biofuels, and to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted in the production of fuels. The European car industry says consumers have so far shown little interest in cars with smaller engines and lower emissions. It also says there are more cost-efficient ways of reducing transport emissions than introducing costly new technology, such as reducing traffic congestion and changing driver behaviour.

But Aat Peterse of the environmental group Transport and Environment said there was no justification for abandoning the 120g/km target, which car manufacturers had known about for 10 years. „Now they have failed to do the job they agreed to do, it makes no sense to let them off the hook,” he added. Transport is the only sector in Europe that has shown dramatic increases in CO2 emissions over the last 15 years. The car industry has made huge improvements in engine efficiency, but the power, size and weight have cars have also increased rapidly. As a result, CO2 emissions have only fallen by 23g/km from the 1995 level of 185g/km. Legislation on the basis of Wednesday's proposal is unlikely to be drafted until 2008. (BBC NEWS)