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The backstory: In the EU, transportation makes up a quarter of the bloc’s carbon emissions. And 70% of those emissions are from road traffic. So, the EU has been discussing new car laws, agreeing to a phaseout of traditional combustion cars by 2035. The approval vote was supposed to happen at the beginning of March.
More recently: For the past few weeks, Germany has been delaying a vote on the phaseout, calling for an exemption for cars running on e-fuels. E-fuels are made using captured CO2 emissions, but CO2 is still released when these fuels are combusted in an engine, making them theoretically carbon neutral. E-fuels aren’t really being produced to a scale to support traditionally made cars at the moment. But that’s another problem. Under the law, selling internal combustion engine cars would become illegal, point blank. But Germany won the exemption.
The development: On Tuesday, the EU finally passed the law saying that all new cars must be zero-emission from 2035. It wasn’t a unanimous approval, with Poland voting against it and Italy, Bulgaria and Romania abstaining. With this plan comes the requirement for average emissions of new cars to drop by 55% by 2030 compared to 2021 emissions. Later this year, the EU will figure out how the sale of e-fuel-only cars will go on. EU energy ministers also agreed to extend the voluntary target for countries to curb their gas use by 15% for another 12 months to help prepare for next winter if the energy crisis continues.
"As a matter of principle, we don't like this approach. We think it is not fair," said Spanish energy minister Teresa Ribera about Germany’s last-minute pushback.
"The direction of travel is clear: in 2035, new cars and vans must have zero emissions," European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said in a statement. "The new rules on CO2 emissions from cars and vans are a key part of the European Green Deal and will be a big contribution to our target of being climate neutral by 2050."