By AFP, ANSA, dpa, FENA, HINA, STA correspondents
BELGIUM – A vote by EU member states on the de facto sales ban for combustion engine has been postponed after several nations cast doubt on the decision, unsettling part of the EU’s package to tackle climate change.
Tuesday’s final vote on a sales ban for new combustion engine vehicles from 2035 in October of last year seemed to be a mere formality, considering that EU member states and the European Parliament had already reached consensus on the issue.
Instead, demands made mainly by the German government to exempt engines using synthetic (e-)fuels from the regulation compromised the formal decision.
Synthetic fuels are produced by combining hydrogen with carbon dioxide. The result of their combustion can be captured from the atmosphere. These fuels are only considered climate-neutral if the power needed to produce them and their components is generated from renewable sources.
In addition to Germany, countries including Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic recently also voiced opposition to the plans for a sales ban. With Poland already opposed to the regulation, and Bulgaria opting to abstain, those countries could form a blocking minority within the European Union.
To approve the ban, 15 out of the EU’s 27 Member States – making up at least 65% of the bloc’s total population, would have to vote in favour.
Germany is the most populous EU country, while Italy is ranked third and Poland fifth. Without Germany’s backing, the achievement of a majority meeting the 65% requirement was unlikely, prompting the postponement of the vote.
The plans to reduce climate-damaging CO2 emissions from new vans and cars by 100% by 2035 are part of a larger package to tackle climate change – the so-called Fit for 55 package, which in turn is part of the European Green Deal.
The EU wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
GERMANY NOT ON BOARD WITHOUT E-FUEL EXEMPTION
German Transport Minister Volker Wissing voiced opposition to the sales ban last week, threatening that Berlin would not back it. He argued that the European Commission had not yet followed up with a complementary draft bill on how cars and vans running on climate-neutral fuels could still be registered in the EU after 2035.
After a cabinet meeting, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the entire government expected the commission to make a proposal on how such e-fuels could be used after 2035.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said that newly registered combustion vehicles should be an exception to the ban after 2035.
“We need this legally secure, clear link between the decision on fleet limits and the possibility of new registrations,” Lindner said.
As the combustion engine technology would continue to remain important throughout the world, a car exporter like Germany should retain the expertise needed in this area, he added. He stated that for his party, the liberal FDP, technological openness was a high priority.
ITALY AND POLAND UNDERPIN THE BLOCKADE
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hailed the decision to postpone the EU vote as “an Italian success.”
She said the position of the Italian government “is clear: a fair, sustainable transition must be planned and carried out with care in order to avoid negative repercussions in terms of production and employment.”
“It is right to aim for zero CO2 emissions as soon as possible, but states must be left free to take the path that they consider most effective and sustainable. That means not closing the door to paths for clean technologies that are different from electric [vehicles],” Meloni added.
In a statement sent to the representatives of the 27 EU member states, Italy stressed that “by setting an emissions reduction target of 100% by 2035 and providing no incentive for the use of renewable fuels, the regulation is not in line with the principle of technological neutrality.”
Furthermore, the document stated that “combustion engine cars are owned by low-income citizens and will remain on the road beyond 2035. The success of electric cars will depend a lot on how affordable they become for these citizens.”
Poland is also among the member states that have raised objections to the ban.
“We have been from the beginning and we are invariably against the ban on the sale of combustion cars after 2035,” Polish Climate and Environment Minister Anna Moskwa said in Brussels, at a photovoltaics conference reported on by the Polish Press Agency (PAP).
“There are more and more skeptical voices in the behind-the-scenes discussions. States wake up and calculate that 2035 is not that far away. Especially those smaller countries, which, as you can imagine, will be flooded with foreign technologies. Their societies are beginning to understand this reality, understand the consequences for themselves,” Moskwa told journalists, PAP reported.
FRANCE, CROATIA AND SLOVENIA UPHOLD THE BAN
On Wednesday, French Transport Minister Clément Beaune urged Germany to support the EU ban on the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines from 2035, regretting what he called a “form of rebellion” from Berlin.
“If we do not keep this ambition we will be swept away industrially and ecologically,” Beaune stated.
“It is not by giving counter-signals that we will succeed in creating the electric car accessible to all,” the minister added. “The signal was clear: it had been supported, including by Germany. It had been adopted under the French presidency of the EU as a great ambition,” Beaune emphasized.
Croatia supports the regulation for the ban, considering it an important part of the European Green Deal and one of the key intermediate steps for achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
Although Croatia does not have a strong auto industry like the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary, the company Rimac Automobili has emerged on the scene in recent years and has become world-famous with the development of an electric sports car.
Rimac managed to attract investments from Hyundai and Porsche. Moreover, there is a joint venture between Rimac and Bugatti.
Slovenia is also part of the group of member states that support the regulation for the ban. According to the Slovenian Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Energy, the ban will contribute to achieving climate, energy and environmental objectives in the transport sector.
The ministry also highlights that, under the new regulation, the European Commission will monitor the development and deployment of zero-emission mobility technologies and infrastructure in the context of regular reviews.
If necessary, the commission would be able to justify the need to continue selling synthetic fuel driven, zero-carbon internal combustion vehicles as part of those reviews, the ministry believes. In its opinion, there are several pathways to the decarbonization of passenger vehicles, and the ministry is “not opposed to leaving the door open to such a solution.”
BOSNIA MAKING EFFORTS FOR THE FUTURE
Even though there is no unified state policy for the gradual transition to the use of electric and hybrid cars and the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles, the Bosnian government has recognized this trend and has approved incentives for a number of buyers to purchase electric cars.
The number of such vehicles in non-EU member Bosnia is increasing, although the figures are significantly lower compared to EU countries and the surrounding region.
Car manufacturers are increasingly turning to hybrid and electric cars. They are aware of the need to introduce these vehicles in Bosnia, especially since its capital is often one of the most polluted cities in the world.
This is also demonstrated by a team of young engineers gathered in the company GS-TMT, driven by the idea of green energy, who have created the first electric delivery vehicle manufactured in Bosnia, which is called EVO.
The content of this article is based on reporting by AFP, ANSA, dpa, FENA, HINA, STA as part of the European Newsroom (enr) project.