On Tuesday, February 14th, the European Parliament voted—340 in favour, 279 against—for legislation to phase out the sale of carbon-emitting gas and diesel vehicles by 2035. The vote endorsed a compromise agreement already reached by the European Council in October 2022, which laid out a roadmap for removing fossil fuel-powered vehicles by midcentury on Europe’s roads.
Under the new rules, manufacturers will be forced to meet a 100% CO2 emissions cut in new vehicles sold by 2035, with new regulations established for monitoring emissions. The new legislation will also hasten emission cuts ahead of schedule, with cars manufactured in 2030 legally required to have reduced emissions by 55% compared to 2021 levels, an increase on the previously agreed 37.5%.
Luxury car manufacturers have been excluded from the legislation due to the low volume of cars they produce.
Individual ministers approved the deal in principle last October but will have to legislate for the new regulations individually and get final approval from the European Council. Final approval is expected for the deal and could come as early as March of this year. Supporters of the law hope that the move will help contribute to the bloc becoming carbon neutral by 2050 as part of the EU’s broader plan for a green transition.
The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Identity and Democracy (ID) EU parliamentary groups, and factions within the conservative EPP bloc, vocally opposed the motion.
The International Road Transport Union (IRU) has warned that the freight industry, in particular, is not ready for total electrification by 2035 and could harm logistics and costs.
The Italian Minister for Transport and leader of the Lega Nord party Matteo Salvini branded the legislation as a gift to Chinese industry, and a death sentence—an economic “suicide”—for the EU.
Italy has been leading opposition to the legislation, with Italian car manufacturers such as Fiat, Ferrari, and Alfa Romeo heavily reliant on combustion engine vehicles and less prepared for the transition to electric fuel compared to their international competitors.
Salvini, also Italy’s deputy prime minister, condemned the deal as “ideological fundamentalism” that would only benefit China in the long term by crippling the European car industry. Salvini also insinuated that lawmakers were influenced by Chinese lobbyists, referencing the Qatargate scandal and the role of foreign lobbyists.
Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajan has stated that he wishes to dilute the legislation to limit the reduction to 90% and argue for more time to transition away from the combustion engine. The Italian auto industry accounts for 5% of the Italian GDP employing 270,000 workers and has already faced a 27% drop in sales last year.
EU electric car makers have faced pressures from the America Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which promises billions of dollars in subsidies for U.S. renewable car manufacturers, with experts warning of a potential trade war.