- 09 Feb 2024 3:21 pm CET
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An agreement has been reached in the EU on stricter CO2 limits for trucks and buses. The compromise was on the brink, with Germany only agreeing at the last minute.
Following a last-minute agreement within the German government, a majority of EU member states have approved plans for stricter CO2 regulations for trucks and buses. This was announced by the Belgian EU Council Presidency on Friday. The project was surprisingly on the back burner because the German government, made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP, only agreed to the new rules at the last minute. The so-called fleet limits regulate how much climate-damaging CO2 vehicles are allowed to emit in future. According to the agreement, CO2 emissions from coaches and trucks are to be reduced by 90 percent by 2040 - compared to 2019. The plenary session of the European Parliament still has to approve the agreement that has now been reached among the EU member states.
The decision was - once again - preceded by a coalition dispute in Berlin. Negotiators in Brussels had actually already agreed in principle on the project on January 18 and it was assumed in Brussels that the German government coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP would agree to the plans for the new CO2 emission standards.
However, the participants of an FDP European party conference then spoke out strongly against fleet limits and the FDP-led Ministry of Transport vetoed the planned approval of the German government, citing the lack of regulation for synthetic fuels, among other things. This was only withdrawn after the Federal Chancellery intervened.
Car industry pushed for decision
The German Association of the Automotive Industry also urged for reliable decisions. The German automotive industry generally welcomes the fact that the EU Council and EU Parliament have reached an agreement on CO2 fleet regulation for heavy commercial vehicles, it said. "It sets a clear timetable to drive forward the implementation of zero-emission solutions on the European market. Reliability is of great importance for companies in the German automotive industry," it said.
According to information from government circles, however, there is to be an addition. According to this, a binding regulation is to be added to allow trucks that can only be refueled with e-fuels for an unlimited period of time. The interest group eFuel Alliance stated: "We now have another recital that is ultimately not binding and we must hope that the EU Commission will pick up the ball and present further proposals for the inclusion of renewable fuels." There was already a similar compromise in the dispute over the phase-out of combustion engines.
A spokesperson for Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) said on Friday that the planned regulation on CO2 fleet limits does not set any requirements for specific drive types. "The regulation only looks at the exhaust of the vehicles and does not prioritize any fuel option." In this respect, it has always been open to any technology that does not produce CO2 at the tailpipe. There is plenty of scope for e-fuels and biofuels.
The fleet limits for heavy commercial vehicles are not the only EU project where there was a dispute in the coalition at the last few meters. There was also uncertainty about the German position on the EU Supply Chain Act and the Artificial Intelligence Act due to concerns raised by the FDP. Because the German government - even under Angela Merkel - was often unable to agree on a common position, an abstention in Brussels is also referred to as a "German vote".
Isabel Cademartori, transport policy spokesperson for the SPD parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, sees the German approval of new CO2 targets as an important signal. "The agreement now provides much-needed certainty for the industry through clear framework conditions," she said.