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Plenary sticks with Commission proposal on CO2 emission performance standards for new heavy-duty vehicles watering down ENVI position

Novembre 2023
Di Sara Bellucci

Yesterday the European Parliament adopted its position during the plenary session taking place in Strasbourg on the revision of the CO2 emission performance standards for new heavy-duty vehicles (HDV) regulation.

Together with the revised CO2 emission performance standards for cars and vans, the adoption of new targets for HDV will mark a step towards the decarbonisation on the road transport sector, which accounts for one third of EU final energy consumption and one fifth of the EU’s GHG emissions, besides being a significant source of air pollution in cities. Currently, HDVs, most of which are running on diesel engines, are responsible for about a quarter of total road transport emissions in the EU and over 6% of total EU GHG emissions. The Commission proposal aims to significantly reduce them by extending of the scope of the regulation to almost all vehicles with certified CO2 emissions, including trailers, urban buses, coaches and further types of lorries above 5 tonnes and updating rules on monitoring and reporting.

MEPs decided to stick with the Commission proposal as regards CO2 emissions reduction targets for HDV and the definition of net zero heavy-duty vehicle. As provided by the proposal, the average CO2 emissions of HDVs, compared with 2019 levels, would have to fall by 45 % from 2030, by 65 % from 2035, and by 90 % from 2040 onwards. At the same time, specific reduction targets are foreseen for subgroups of and trailers.

MEPs also agreed with the Commission proposal on allowing the registration only of zero-emission new urban buses from 2030, but proposed to introduce a temporary exemption (until 2035), under strict conditions, for urban buses fuelled by biomethane. Coaches used for regional and long-distance passenger transport, instead, will be subject to the CO2 emissions reduction targets.

The plenary vote goes against what previously decided by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). In the report tabled in plenary, proposals to raise the ambition of the emissions targets (70% in 2035) and make the definition of net zero HDV stricter (3 g/(t∙km) of CO₂ instead of 5 g/(t∙km) of CO₂) were included.

The plenary vote resulted in a rejection of these changes. Moreover, amendments to include a definition of CO2 neutral fuels (CNF) and to allow the registration of heavy-duty vehicles running exclusively on CO2 neutral fuels, which were initially rejected by the ENVI committee, were adopted. The inclusion of CNF has been the piece of resistance of the right wing in discussions over the revised CO2 emissions performance standards for cars and vans and the Euro 7 regulation. While in both of these cases, amendments mentioning CNF did not make it through the final Parliament’s position, this time such a result was made possible thanks to the support of parts of the S&D and Renew groups, on some specific part of the text, to the right-side of the hemicycle.

Now the Parliament can start discussions with the Council, which has already adopted its position on 16 October. The latest developments regarding the Parliament’s orientation on the HDV proposal will make it easier to reach an agreement by December. Indeed, Member States decided to maintain the objectives set by the Commission as the Parliament did. The Council has also called on the Commission to produce an assessment of the role of a carbon correction factor (CCF) in the transition towards zero-emission mobility in the heavy-duty vehicle sector, an essential for assing the carbon neutrality of CNFs.