In a letter, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Malta, Ireland, Lithuania and Luxembourg call on the EU Commission to set a phase-out date for the sale of new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles with combustion engines in the EU that is in line with the goal of climate neutrality by 2050.
In addition, these nine states are in favour of improving charging infrastructure for zero-emission transport and significantly stricter CO2 emission standards – but in each case without concrete proposals.
The letter is not an official paper; the term “non-paper” is also used in Brussels for such unofficial letters. Nevertheless, the intention is clear, also on the basis of the addressees and signatories. The letter, published by the Dutch diplomatic representation in Brussels, is addressed to Frans Timmermans and Adina Vălean. Vălean is Transport Commissioner of the EU Commission, Timmermans is Executive Vice-President responsible for the European Green Deal. The letter was signed by numerous ministers from the above-mentioned countries, for example, from the energy, mobility, infrastructure and environment ministries.
Although the ministers only formulate the demand for a phase-out of internal combustion vehicles, they do not propose a date themselves. “To facilitate the necessary and timely transition towards zero-emission mobility, the Commission is encouraged to present an assessment and a specific proposal for a phase-out date or target year and how this can be achieved via EU legislation and measures. Furthermore, the EU regulation should support a gradual phase-out of the most emitting new cars and vans,” the letter says.
Nevertheless, the ministers identified one lever that they believe would be particularly effective: “The current CO2 emissions standards must be strengthened significantly to accelerate the transition towards zero-emission road transport,” it reads verbatim. “In addition, the incentive mechanism should be strengthened to provide as much incentive as possible for manufacturers to develop and produce new zero-emission vehicles.”
The car industry itself is already following the proceedings in Brussels very closely, but not necessarily because of the CO2 targets. The Euro-7 exhaust emission standard expected for 2025 could set such strict targets for the emission of nitrogen oxides and other pollutants that it would be tantamount to a de facto ban on internal combustion engines, at least that is how the German automobile association VDA sees it. But some of its members also think similarly: “Depending on which regulations are ultimately applied, the outlook for internal combustion engines could change dramatically once again – all the way to a scenario that makes it almost impossible to register internal combustion engines from 2025 onwards,” Markus Schäfer, member of the Daimler Board of Management responsible for development, recently said in an interview.