BRUSSELS, March 28 (Reuters) – European Union countries on Tuesday gave final approval to a landmark law to end sales of new CO2-emitting cars by 2035, after Germany granted an exemption for cars running on e-fuels .
The approval of EU countries’ energy ministers means Europe’s key automotive climate policy can now come into effect – after weeks of delay caused by last-minute opposition from Germany.
EU law requires all new cars sold to be carbon neutral from 2035 and to emit 55% less CO2 from 2030 than in 2021. The targets aim to encourage the rapid decarbonisation of new car fleets in Europe.
However, the European Commission has committed to creating a legal route for the sale of new cars running on e-fuels only after 2035, after Germany demanded this exemption from the ban.
It was expected that EU policy would ban the sale of combustion engine cars in the EU from 2035. But the exemption won by Germany offers a potential lifeline for traditional vehicles – although e-fuels are not yet widely produced.
E-fuels are produced by synthesizing captured CO2 emissions and hydrogen produced using CO2-free electricity. They are considered carbon neutral because the CO2 released when the fuel is burned is offset by the CO2 removed from the atmosphere to produce the fuel.
Poland voted against the law on Tuesday. Italy, Bulgaria and Romania abstained from voting. Poland had called the law unrealistic, saying it risked raising car prices, while Italy had wanted cars running on biofuel also exempted from the 2035 phase-out.
Transport is responsible for almost a quarter of EU emissions.
Porsche and Ferrari are among the proponents of e-fuels, which they see as a way to keep their vehicles from being burdened by heavy batteries.
Other automakers, including Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Ford, are betting on battery electric vehicles to go low carbon, and some companies had urged EU countries not to reverse the phase-out by 2035.
EU energy ministers also agreed on Tuesday to extend a voluntary target to curb their gas consumption by 15% over 12 months, to prepare for next winter with scarce Russian gas.
Some EU officials expected ministers to address a dispute over whether nuclear power should count towards EU renewable energy targets – a question that has divided countries and threatens to delay key EU renewable energy policies.
Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Angus MacSwan
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