On 25 March 2020, all pressure groups in the European automotive industry - including manufacturers, suppliers, tyre manufacturers and retailers - signed a message to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that calls for a relaxation of CO2 targets for cars.

The request highlights the significant challenges posed by an unprecedented global health crisis and explicitly calls for a postponement of CO2 and safety laws.

The law on CO2 emissions from cars is the EU's most important policy to reduce the growing climate impact caused by cars, which account for 14% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of road transport emissions. The first significant target, after years of increasing CO2 emissions and the lack of electric car models on the market, started on 1 January 2020: 95% of all new car sales across the EU must be equal to or below the average target of 95g CO2 per km. The target applies at 100% compared to sales in 2021.

This is a CO2 target, not a sales target for electric vehicles. When it was first agreed in 2008, the compliance path was not that of electric cars, but that of (small and) fuel-efficient cars. Therefore, electric vehicles are now the preferred option for many for parameter compliance and the best climate solution.

Evidence shows that in times of recession drivers are switching to smaller, less powerful cars (with lower emissions). In 2009, CO2 emissions from new cars decreased by 5.1%. Generous and targeted scrapping schemes helped to drive demand towards cleaner vehicles - scrapping schemes accounted for 86% of all sales in 2009. At least 35 conventional small and medium-sized low-cost models under 95 g/km are currently on sale. Almost all EU car manufacturers have models of this.

In the first two months of 2020, the share of total sales of electric vehicles more than doubled in the EU, from 3.1% in 2019 to more than 6% (*) in 2020. Indeed, 2020 has so far been a record year for electric car sales: France leads the five more significant markets with 8% of new electric vehicle sales, compared to 6% in the UK, 7% in Germany, 3% in Spain and 2% in Italy.

The priority in fighting climate change requires that the EU does not lower its guard against the targets already agreed. Alternative solutions exist and must be pursued.

(*) Source: https://www.transportenvironment.org/