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CO2 Emissions from New Cars in Europe Down by More Than 12% Since 1995; Not Tracking to Target

Carbon dioxide emissions from new cars sold in the EU-15 dropped in 2004 to an average 12.4% below 1995’s level, according to the European Commission’s annual report on CO2 emissions from new cars, published today. In 2003, average new car CO2 emissions were 11.8% below 1995.

Commissioners welcomed the report, but noted that the auto industry will need to make major additional efforts to meet its commitments to cut average CO2 emissions to 140g/km by 2008/9, a reduction of around 25% from 1995 levels.

Road transport generates more than 20% of all CO2 emissions in the EU, with passenger cars being responsible for more than half of these emissions (or about 10%). CO2 emissions from road transport have risen by 22% since 1990, notably due to increases both in the number of cars on the roads as well as in the distances that are driven annually.

Car manufacturers have made continuous and substantial progress since 1995. The situation is not satisfactory. I urge industry to step up their efforts. We expect that industry sticks to its commitments.

—Günter Verheugen, Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry

To combat climate change and respect our Kyoto commitments we have to reduce CO2 emissions from transport—a sector whose emissions contribute significantly to overall emissions. I appreciate the efforts of some car manufacturers to market cars that emit less CO2. I urge the car industry to step up its efforts to meet the 140 g of CO2/km target under the voluntary agreement. This will be crucial to achieving the Community objective of 120 g of CO2/km by 2012 at the latest.

—Stavros Dimas, Environment Commissioner

If industry does not meet the targets, the Commission will consider taking measures, including legislative ones, to ensure that the necessary CO2 reductions are achieved. Given the current rate of progress, the annual reduction rates will need to reach 3.3% for ACEA and KAMA and 3.5% for JAMA.

Average New Car CO2 Emissions, 2004
Assn.2004 Emissions
% reduction
from 1995
% reduction
from 2003
Interim target
ACEA 161 -13% -1.2% 165-170 in 2003
JAMA 170 -13.3% -1.2% 165-175 in 2003
KAMA 168 -14.7% -6.1% 165-170 in 2004

The EU strategy to reduce CO2 emissions is relying on separate voluntary commitments by the European, Japanese and Korean car manufacturers’ associations to reduce CO2 emissions from their cars to an average of 140 g/km by 2008 (for European manufacturers) and 2009 (for Japanese and Korean producers). Two other components of the strategy are consumer information (chiefly through fuel efficiency labelling of cars) and fiscal measures to promote the most fuel-efficient cars.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association includes: Alfa Romeo, Alpina, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW , Bentley, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroen, Daimler, Ferrari., Fiat, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar, Jeep, Lamborghini, Lancia-Autobianchi, Land-Rover, Maserati, Matra, Mcc (Smart), Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Rolls-Royce, Saab, Seat, Skoda, Vauxhall, Volkswagen and Volvo.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers’ Association includes: Daihatsu, Honda, Isuzu, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.

The Korea Automobile Manufacturers’ Association includes: Daewoo, Hyundai, Kia and Ssangyong.



You would think the hard stance of fuel economy and CO2 emission reduction may some day threaten to doom high end sports car makers like ferrari and lamborghini...but no, it is US safety standards (advanced airbag requirements) that is threatening these niche automakers with significant losses and bankruptcy.


Big deal. The increase in CO2 from USA makes this pointless.
Until you Europeans find a way to force the USA to do something, you're just pissing into the wind.


The real issue is China - until a way is found to get that country (as well as other developing nations) on board with CO2 reductions, there's nothing the developed world can do.

It amazes me that the Montreal Protocol, way back in 1987, was able to make allowances for the needs of developing countries, and yet still ultimately got long-term commitments from them for the reduction and ultimate abandonment of fluorocarbon use. It amazes me to this day that Kyoto doesn't have similar provisions.


The real issue is China - until a way is found to get that country (as well as other developing nations) on board with CO2 reductions, there's nothing the developed world can do.

It amazes me that the Montreal Protocol, way back in 1987, was able to make allowances for the needs of developing countries, and yet still ultimately got long-term commitments from them for the reduction and ultimate abandonment of fluorocarbon use. It amazes me to this day that Kyoto doesn't have similar provisions.


The Americans are slowly starting to wake up and in the mean time reductions elsewhere all contribute positively. All anyone or any country can do is their best. That is at least a precondition to solving the tragedy of the commons. Don't rely on others before doing something positive yourself.


The U.S. should not be passing the buck to China until it gets its own house in order. China is just part of the so called "real issue".


Presupposing the urgency of CO2 reduction (which I find excessively alarmist), the only way to get China and India 'on board' with CO2 reduction is to help them grow their economies with something other than coal. Currently the only thing that is a proven alternative to coal at large scales is nuclear power, and that is simply fraught with political hand-wringing. I simply cant imagine a deal that China or India would accept that the developed nations would provide, because its essentially giving rising powers access to massive nuclear deterrant. In an ideal world, the US and europe would ban municipal coal power production and work out deals with the developing world to develop and construct nuclear plants all over. Politically impossible.

Kyoto was doomed from the start, and is simply a bad deal.


China and India are already nuclear powers. China's stockpile might be older russian missiles but still effective in delivering a payload.

Bill Young

Pogo had it right "We have met the enemy and he is us".

Per capita CO2 emissions:
US - 20 tons/year
Europe - 8 ton/year
China - 3 tons/year

(ref: for 2004)

The US has chosen to blow off the rest of the developed world and not adopt the Kyoto Protocol. It is an admittedly flawed mechanism. Only Australia stands with the US (Australia has basically 100% coal based power generation)

It is incredibly arrogant to ask China and India to curtail their emissions when the US ignores its own.

The US plan to date:
1) A voluntary plan for the power companies: pretty please cut back
2) Raising the CAFE standards with an E85 loophole big enough to drive a Hummer through.


I'm sorry, I don't understand how responding urgently to the prospect, and increasingly, the reality of runaway climate change is excessively alarmist. Nuclear power is slow to construct and the limited supplies of high grade uranium ore mean that scaling up nuclear power production will only be a stop gap measure for a couple of decades. We don't even need to touch the problem of waste disposal. A mix of renewables and energy efficiency is cheaper and safer all round.

Beyond that we have to face the fact that our lifestyle of rampant consumerism is unsustainable by any measure. We will have to accept the realities of energy descent either by careful planning or massive economic and political disruption. I know which option I would prefer but time is running out while politicians fiddle around at the edges of the problem.


Bill, The climate change 'policy' of the Australian Government makes the US look positively progressive. The US gives a tax break to hybrids, Australia gives a tax break to SUVs. True.


I don't think anyone is asking China or India to curtail emissions while we in the U.S. do nothing. But until these countries are brought into some kind of control mechanism, even one that allows them to put off serious cuts for some number of years, there's simply no point in any of us (the U.S., Europe, Japan, you name it) going ahead with Kyoto. Without the participation of the developing world, it is an automatic failure. And I refuse to support automatic failures.

Again, look at the Montreal Protocol for an idea of how it can be done successfully.


Matthew, most Kyoto signatories are going to miss their targets by huge margins (many have increased emissions instead of decreasing them).  What kind of "success" is that?

Bill Young


In an ideal world, developing nations would be constrained equitably with the western world.

The US did not sign Kyoto because the President did not believe that global warming was real (his dim bulb has gotten a little brighter on this fact), he did not want to inflict an economic penalty on his friends in the oil and gas industries and the Senate doesn't enact anything without a lobbyist paying for it. The days of legislation passing because it is the right thing to do are long gone.

If the US, the current powerhouse economy of the world, would sign up to Kyoto and demonstrate some leadership, China and India would be willing to participate at an equitable level.

In the future, China and India will be huge emitters if they grow their emissions to the level of Europe but today the US is the biggest global warming problem.


RE: Montreal Protocol:
CFCs were a walk in the park compared with climate change, little more than regassing fridges, A/C units and spray cans. Climate change requires that we find a replacement for the energy that powers our civilisation. The challenge cannot be underestimated.


My whole blog is about taking the challenge head-on.  We've got X, Y and Z amount of A, B and C; will it do the job?  Answer is "Yes, but only if you do I, J and K."

Pity the American public is allergic to facts and analysis, or the spinmeisters and demagogues working on these issues would be unemployed and we'd have real solutions on the way already.

Rafael Seidl

What is often forgotten in this debate is that there is a difference between fleet average emissions of newly registered vehicles (which are going down, albeit more slowly than promised) and, total emissions due to the transportation sector (which are rising due to economic growth). In terms of climate change, only total emissions are relevant.

You cannot expect the European auto industry to achieve the desired reduction in total CO2 emissions by itself. It exists to churn out vehicles and both politicians and unions are preventing an overdue elmination of excess production capacity. Ergo, the industry can only turn a profit by maintaining high unit volumes. Given the longevity of modern cars, that translates to a growing vehicle fleet. Once people have vehicles, they use them, leading to increased total CO2 from the sector. Indeed, recreational use is growing fastest because Europeans are becoming more affluent and have a lot of vacation time to kill. Extreme commuting (>30 km each way) is also on the rise.

If the EU wants to get serious about a net reduction in CO2 emissions from the transportation sector, it needs to take a more holistic approach:

- invest in trans-national rail freight, currently hampered by antiquated national security concerns and associated incompatible technical standards in rail guages, signaling & driver certification, electrical voltage and rotary frequency.

- eliminate export subsidies for agricultural products incl. livestock. These encourage the totally superfluous transport of everything from pigs to yoghurt to and fro just to collect money from Brussels.

- permit carmakers to shed excess capacity (i.e. cut their workforce) as a quid pro quo for legally binding CO2 reductions in new vehicles.

- migrate toward automotive fuel taxes based on carbon content. It will still be cheaper to operate a diesel engine, but TCO considerations will limit the technology to large vehicles where it makes the most sense. Smaller cars should use downsized turbocharged gasoline engines, possibly assisted by mild hybrid electric systems. These approach diesels in terms of total CO2 emissions but reduce population health problems related to respiratory ailments.



"Transport emissions increased by 14 million tonnes (+1.7%) between 2003 and 2004. In road transportation the substantial increase of CO2 from diesel oil consumption (+23 million tonnes, +5 %) was only partly offset by the decrease of CO2 from gasoline consumption (-10 million tonnes, -3 %)."


Bill - Technically, the U.S. *did* sign the Kyoto Protocol, during the Clinton administration. However, the Senate passed a unanimous resolution stating that they would not be ratifying the treaty unless it also included the developing world. Kyoto is just a bad deal all around, and the Senate was smart enough to see that.

Bush's sole involvement was to 'unsign' the treaty after it was clear that it was dead.

Carbonsink - Yes, the CFC challenge was much simpler than the CO2 challenge. My point was that the Montreal Protocol should be used as a model of how to engage the developing world while still putting the immediate burden on the developed world, where by necessity it belongs.


Matthew - yes Montreal was a good model, but its much easier to follow a good model if the problem is small and doesn't require sacrifices from the general population (higher fuel prices, higher electricity prices etc)

Climate change requires real *leadership* not just spin and rhetoric like we're getting from our 'leaders' in the US and Australia ATM. Mind you, in a little over two years the political situation could be radically different in the US.


I agree with carbonsink that Montreal was a success primarily because a simple and cheap solution was enough to solve the problem. Kyoto is not a success because of the huge costs and sacrifices.

If cutting CO2 emissions were as cheap as cutting CFC emissions, the science behind global warming would not be as disputed as it is today. We would have reached concensus years ago.


Once again, I see my opinion confirmed that a focus on efficiency is not going to bring the necessary results. The 12.4% increase in efficiency of new cars is more than compensated by the growing use of cars. The only way out of this mess is clean energy. Solar, wind, biofuel, fusion, etc. And if they don't produce enough energy, than we'll simply have to drive less, fly less, consume less.

I am not advocating one thing or another, just predicting. The day will come that action is no longer something that is debatable.


Bingo, Anne.

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