Lawmakers in the European Parliament plenary voted, on June 8th, to mandate that all new cars and small commercial vehicles should be zero emissions from 2035. The move essentially places a deadline on the sale of combustion engine vehicles in favour of electric cars.
Lawmakers approved the report from the Environment, Safety, and Public Health Committee, with 339 votes in favour, 249 against, with 24 abstentions.
According to Politico, lobbies had been working hard in the days leading up to what was always predicted to be a close decision.
The mandate was framed as driver and consumer friendly.
“The rapporteur does not believe that penalising driving by increasing the costs for consumers is the right way to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050,” the report’s explanatory statement said. “Instead, he believes that driving itself should be made zero-emissions and affordable.”
It further argued that the price of electric cars was already falling and stimulating innovation in this direction, making electric cars more affordable.
But there were objections. An opinion from the Committee on Industry, Research, and Energy expressed doubts about the ban. It pointed out that uncertainty still surrounds the future of electric cars and that an outright ban could stymie technological development.
At this stage, “betting everything on a single technology would at the same time undermine other sectors by causing major industrial disruptions in R&D [research and development], employment and European competitiveness,” according to the committee.
“In view of these uncertainties, it would be unwise to precipitously and radically outlaw one or more technical options that could prove useful in the future; what we should be doing is encouraging innovation and attempting to find complementary elements to the various technologies that prove successful,” the opinion further stated.
It also argued that the proposed rule violated technological neutrality and didn’t address the wider spectrum of environmental issues associated with cars, even electric ones.
“The progressive relocation of emission sources further up the value chain brought about by the rise of zero- or low-emission vehicles—which fall under the scope of other legislation—will make this regulation increasingly obsolete,” the opinion also explained. “To counter this risk of regulatory fragmentation, your rapporteur would prefer a broader carbon accounting system considering the life cycle of vehicles and fuel/energy, which would better reflect the true environmental impact of the various technologies involved.”
Batteries for electric cars require rare minerals which have to be mined.
The committee proposed a clause to trigger a review in 2027 when the technology could be better addressed. Jan Huitema, a Dutch liberal MEP who was rapporteur on the original report, had also pushed for the extra 2027 interim target, but it was also rejected by MEPs.
The European People’s Party had advocated hard for its own alternative amendment that would have set the 2035 emissions-reduction target at 90% without establishing an end date, and would have allowed the continued sale of a limited number of combustion-engine vehicles.The final text will still have to be negotiated with the Council, but Environment ministers are set to sign off on their version of the legislation at a summit in Luxembourg on June 28th, Politico reports.
Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.