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Proposed EU emission standards for trucks and buses fall short of the ambition needed to decarbonise transport

February 14, 2023 Work Area: Zero-Carbon Fuels

BRUSSELS – Today, the European Commission presented one of the final pieces of this term’s European Green Deal agenda: a proposal for revised EU emission standards for heavy duty vehicles. The regulation as proposed falls short of the aim to align emission reduction targets for commercial vehicles with the EU’s overall climate objectives. 

“An upwards revision of CO2 reduction targets for heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers is timely, and the extension of scope to a broader set of vehicles is overdue,” said Maja Pozvek, Government Affairs Associate, Europe at Clean Air Task Force. “But, if the EU wants to be a leader in zero-emission vehicle production, this won’t cut it. Policymakers need to go beyond gradual regulatory ratcheting and set ambitious targets, or they risk being overtaken by other regions entirely.” 

The Commission proposes that European manufacturers must cut their fleets’ carbon emissions by 90% by 2040. Analysis of technology readiness, as well as manufacturers’ own announcements, suggest that all newly registered trucks could realistically be zero-emission by 2035. An additional regulatory nudge could prompt European vehicle manufacturers to step up their game and send a signal to the buyers to start ordering zero-emission vehicles today. Intermediary targets of 30% emission reduction by 2027 and 65% by 2030 would be helpful in speeding up the transition. 

Road transport is a major source for the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions, contributing as much as one fifth to the total. Greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty vehicles — trucks, buses, and coaches — make up 6% of the total and have been growing since the 1990s. In 2019, GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles were 44% and 37% higher than emissions from aviation and maritime transport respectively. 

“The trucking market urgently needs to cut its emissions,” said Jonathan Lewis, Director of Transportation Decarbonisation at Clean Air Task Force. “Designing policy around mandatory CO2 emission reductions provides a powerful incentive for the manufacturers to boost the production of zero-emission vehicles but at the same time leaves space for innovation and different technology options.” 

Not all propulsion technologies are created equal when it comes to their impact on climate. The proposed regulation maintains an incentive mechanism for low-emission vehicles that would only have to cut their emissions by half, until 2030. This would promote the use of LNG, biofuels or methanol, fuels that are for various reasons not the best options for climate, particularly when taking into account their lifecycle emissions. Clean Air Task Force urges the co-legislators to put an immediate end to mechanisms that incentivise false climate solutions. 

As the draft law now moves deeper into the cogwheels of EU policymaking, it will be up to the Parliament and the Council to raise the bar on this key legislation. 

Press Contact
Rowan Emslie, Communications Director, Europe, [email protected],
+32 476 97 36 42  

About Clean Air Task Force 

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit and follow @cleanaircatf.

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