New cars in the EU to be emission-free from 2035
The EU countries want only climate-neutral new cars to be sold in the European Union from 2035. The ministers of the 27 countries responsible for the environment agreed on this on Wednesday night. A final compromise must now be negotiated with the EU Parliament, which wants a complete ban on new cars with internal combustion engines from 2035. The EU states were in favor of lowering the so-called fleet limits for cars to zero by 2035.
These limits are specifications for manufacturers on how much CO2 their cars and vans may emit during operation. As a result, no conventionally powered new cars with internal combustion engines would be allowed to be sold from 2035. All new cars are then to be powered by demonstrably CO2-neutral synthetic fuels produced from green electricity.
The German government had only reached an internal compromise during the ongoing negotiations. According to a government spokesman on Tuesday, the EU Commission has agreed to submit a proposal on how only vehicles fueled with climate-friendly fuels can be registered after 2035. "According to the common understanding of the German government, this also refers to passenger cars and light commercial vehicles."
The FDP had major reservations about agreeing to a de facto ban on combustion. The German government now still has the backdoor option of having the commission formulate a proposal that takes climate-friendly fuels into account for new cars with internal combustion engines as well. The FDP had insisted that after 2035, internal combustion cars running on e-fuels could also be registered.
Actually, the German government had already agreed in March to approve the EU Commission's plan. The morning before the German government reached a compromise, Economics Minister Robert Habeck and Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (both Greens) were still talking about a common position of the German government.
In the next step, the EU states and the European Parliament must now negotiate together. They must agree on a common position, whereby the Parliament had already spoken out in favor of a ban. The EU Commission had already made a proposal last year that included a ban on internal combustion vehicles from 2035.
The environment ministers also agreed on other important parts of the EU package to combat climate change, in particular a joint position on reforming emissions trading. Consumers are also to be relieved by the climate social fund. The legislation was proposed by the EU Commission to meet climate targets and can now be negotiated with the European Parliament. Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) said after the EU countries agreed: "This is the biggest climate protection package forged in Europe in 15 years."
The goal is to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible and radically reduce emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The EU has set out to reduce climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to become climate neutral by 2050.
At the heart of the EU's climate policy is emissions trading, which involves paying for the emission of climate-damaging gases such as CO2. Free certificates for certain companies are to be phased out between 2026 and 2035. At the end of the period, the reduction is to be faster than at the beginning. The EU Parliament had advocated gradually phasing out these allocations from 2027 and then eliminating them altogether from 2032.
The system is now to be extended to heating buildings and transport. This has been the subject of heated debate in some quarters because it is feared that consumers would then have to pay even more for heating and driving. Germany and other EU countries already have a CO2 price for these areas. The obligation to pay for the replacement of climate-damaging gases has so far only applied to industry. The EU parliamentarians are in favor of initially only having to pay for commercial buildings and transport when CO2 is emitted.
Since consumers may incur higher costs during the energy transition - such as higher heating costs - there is to be a climate social fund. This is intended to provide relief for affected households and finance long-term investments, for example in more efficient buildings. Here, too, however, there could be disagreements with parliament.
The fund is to be financed by revenue from emissions trading. According to parliamentary estimates, this could raise up to 72 billion euros by 2032 - but the EU countries have advocated a smaller fund of around 59 billion euros. Germany in particular had argued for the fund to be reduced in size. In the end, too small a climate fund was also a reason for several EU countries to vote against the package. However, the decision did not require unanimity.
Photo by Randy Lisciarelli