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Politicians Put the Car Into CO2

Sep 5, 2008
Car manufacturers are not yet meeting European Union targets on fuel efficiency and lower carbon dioxide emission on the majority of their new models, according to environmental campaigners. A pan-European lobby group, Transport and Environment (T and E), has called the industry out for fighting against current EU legislation and, even more worryingly, proposed future limits.

Car travel contributes a large chuck of Europe's C02 limits, with individual car journeys being one of the most straight forward areas that people can address if they wish to reduce their carbon footprint. Carbon emissions, despite increased public awareness on the issue of climate change, have continued to rise across the EU. Britain looks likely to meet its Kyoto targets, however emissions from aviation and shipping, as well as other forms of transport, are not including in this carbon balance sheet, a fact which leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many environmental campaigners.

In fact, transport in the EU was responsible for just under 30% of all emissions in 2006, an increase of 35% on 1990's level. The assumption that car manufacturers, consumers and politicians, in being well informed about climate change, will naturally act to reduce emissions is clearly wayward. Transport and the Environment highlight the fact that the 14 biggest car manufacturers in the EU still have to reduce engine emissions by 17% to reach the EU's 2012 targets.

Transport and Environment's report does not place responsibility solely at the door of the giant motor industry. It also found that car buyers were unwilling, as yet, to take the effort into leaving behind their penchant for gas guzzling past models in favour of low-emission, more environmentally friendly vehicles. A change in consumer culture would surely drive a response from the manufactures, who are, after all, as eager to meet the most up-to-date aspirations of their target demographic.

With motor magazines and television programmes still dominated by an outmoded, puerile appetence for speedy and sex y cars, it seems unlikely that this change in culture is anywhere close to arriving.

The fact that many car adverts now tout their emissions levels gives some cause for hope, as it suggests that, at the very least, people are aware of the environmental issues that are so inherent with driving.

Whilst consumers are currently left to their own free will when considering their next car purchase, the manufactures are, in theory, being forced to alter the carbon emissions of their current models thanks to EU legislation, legislation that is expected to become more stringent in the immediate future.

The German manufacturer BMW was identified by the report as having made an effective step toward the goal of reducing the negative impacts that their cars have. In 2007 the manufacturer managed to cut the emissions of its entire fleet by just over 7%, through an engineering process designed to reduce carbon emissions.

Overall though the German car industry has been one of the most vocally opposed groups to influence its domestic politicians. Thanks to intensive lobbying Agela Merkel, their chancellor, has made a compromise with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, to reduce the penalties that car manufacturers will incur if they break the legislation. They also discredited the need for immediate efforts to be made to halt climate change by phasing in, rather than just introducing, target emissions, proof, if proof were needed, that politicians and businesspeople should be kept as far apart as gunpowder and naked flames.
About the Author
Martin Gavin is a writer for Ecoswitch
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