The European Commission’s ambitious Green New Deal aims to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. Central to this plan are two pieces of car-related environmental legislation: the Euro 7 emissions framework and the 2035 ban on petrol and diesel cars. While initially met with little resistance, these new regulations have recently faced strong opposition, particularly from Germany and Central Europe.
The Euro 7 Emission Framework
Evolution of European Emission Standards
The Euro 7 framework is the latest in a series of European emission standards regulating pollution from vehicles. These standards have come a long way since the implementation of Euro 1 in 1992, which first addressed pollution from passenger cars and light lorries. Over time, the EU has introduced stricter directives to tackle various emissions, including nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, ammonia, and other particulates from both petrol and diesel vehicles.
To illustrate the progress made, under the Euro 1 regulations, diesel cars were allowed to emit 970 milligrams of nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide per kilometer. However, under the most recent Euro 6 regulations, which came into effect in 2014, the limit was reduced to just 80 milligrams, less than a tenth of the original allowance. These strict requirements led to scandals such as the Volkswagen emissions case, where the company falsified test results using technology that only activated emission controls during the test.
Proposed Euro 7 Regulations
The European Commission proposed the Euro 7 regulations in November last year, with implementation planned before July 2025. Under Euro 7, emissions requirements would be standardized for all vehicles, regardless of their type or fuel. The regulations would also set limits on previously unregulated pollutants, such as nitrous oxide, and introduce the first worldwide additional limits on emissions from brakes and microplastic emissions from tires.
Durability requirements for vehicles would also be increased under Euro 7, doubling the existing Euro 6 requirements to a minimum of 200,000 kilometers and 10 years of use. Electric cars would face new regulations concerning battery durability, and all vehicles would need to provide ways to measure their emissions throughout their lifetime, not just during tests.
These proposed regulations aim to further reduce emissions and contribute to the EU’s ambitious Green New Deal targets. However, they’ve encountered significant opposition from several member states, leading to a heated debate on the balance between economic interests and environmental goals.
The 2035 Ban on Petrol and Diesel Cars
The European Parliament approved the proposed 2035 ban on new petrol and diesel cars in February, initially without much controversy. However, as opposition grew among several EU member states, the conversation around the ban began to change.
Car-friendly Coalition of Member States and Their Opposition
A coalition of car-friendly member states, including Germany, Italy, Poland, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic, emerged to oppose both the Euro 7 regulations and the 2035 ban. These countries often have significant national car companies or a large number of people employed in the automotive industry.
In response to the opposition, amendments were made to the 2035 ban, allowing exemptions for combustion engines compatible with e-fuels. This concession highlights the challenges faced by the EU in implementing ambitious green policies while balancing the economic interests of its member states.
Opposition and Concerns
The anti-Euro 7 coalition consists of Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Portugal, Romania, and the Czech Republic. These countries seek to weaken or eliminate certain aspects of the proposed Euro 7 regulations.
The main concern of the anti-Euro 7 coalition is the potential economic impact on national car companies and the potential loss of jobs. For example, Skoda, a Czech car manufacturer, warned that it might have to cut 3,000 jobs if the new rules come into effect without being watered down.
Czech conservative MEP Alexandr Vondra has been at the forefront of the opposition, having been appointed as the EU’s rapporteur and lead negotiator for Euro 7. Vondra and others argue that the proposed regulations will make car ownership unaffordable for most people, crippling mass-market car brands like Skoda.
Italy’s transport minister, Matteo Salvini, has also been vocal in his criticism of Euro 7. He described the proposed regulations as “suicide and ideological fundamentalism” that would benefit China to the detriment of the European car industry.
The EU’s Defense of Euro 7 as a Good Investment
The EU defends the proposed Euro 7 regulations, arguing that they represent a great investment for the bloc. According to European Commission research, the new rules would add only about 100 euros to the cost of an average car.
The EU also claims that, due to the significant health and environmental consequences of vehicle emissions, every euro spent on implementing Euro 7 regulations would save Europe more than 5 euros in health and environmental costs.
Despite the ongoing opposition, the outcome of this debate remains uncertain. The ability of the EU to balance economic interests and environmental goals will be crucial in determining the success of its green ambitions.
Implications and the Future of Europe’s Green Ambitions
The Czech-led efforts to water down the Euro 7 regulations appear to be gaining traction, with the coalition garnering support from several EU member states. This development indicates that economic interests may hold more sway than environmental goals in the decision-making process.
Germany’s shift in stance towards the Euro 7 regulations is particularly significant, given its status as the largest member state in the EU and its historical commitment to a faster green transition. This change highlights the complexity of balancing economic concerns with the ambitious goals of the Green New Deal.
Balancing economic interests and environmental goals is critical to the success of the EU’s green ambitions. While the concerns of the anti-Euro 7 coalition are valid, a successful green transition will inevitably require tough sacrifices and a long-term vision that prioritizes sustainability.
The outcome of the Euro 7 and 2035 ban debates will significantly impact the EU’s commitment to its Green New Deal. If economic interests prevail over environmental goals, the EU’s ambitious plans for a climate-neutral future could be jeopardized.
Regardless of the outcome of the current debate, the transition towards electrification and cleaner transportation alternatives is inevitable. The EU must focus on fostering innovation and investment in these areas to ensure a sustainable and competitive future for its automotive industry.