There is an agreement in the EU on stricter CO₂ limits for trucks and buses. The compromise was on the brink, and Germany’s consent only came at the last moment.
A majority of EU states have approved plans for stricter CO2 standards for trucks and buses following a last-minute agreement within the federal government. This was announced by the Belgian EU Council Presidency. The project was surprisingly in jeopardy because the federal government made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP only agreed to approve the new rules at the last moment.
The so-called fleet limits regulate how much climate-damaging CO2 vehicles will be allowed to emit in the future. According to the agreement, CO2 emissions from coaches and trucks should be reduced by 90 percent by 2040 – compared to 2019. The agreement, which has now been agreed among the EU states, must also be approved by the plenary session of the European Parliament.
The FDP was initially against the law
The decision was – once again – preceded by a coalition dispute in Berlin. Negotiators in Brussels had actually already agreed in principle on the project on January 18th and it was assumed in Brussels that the German government coalition made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP would agree to the plans for the new CO2 emissions standards.
Afterwards, however, the participants at an FDP European party conference spoke out strictly against fleet limits and the FDP-led Ministry of Transport vetoed the federal government’s planned approval, citing, among other things, a lack of regulation for synthetic fuels. This was only withdrawn after the Federal Chancellery got involved.
In addition, the Association of the Automotive Industry, among others, pushed for reliable decisions. The German automotive industry fundamentally welcomes the fact that the EU Council and the EU Parliament have come to an agreement regarding CO2 fleet regulation for heavy commercial vehicles, it said. “It sets a clear timetable to advance the implementation of emission-free solutions on the European market. Reliability is of great importance for companies in the German automotive industry,” it said.
According to information from government circles, there should be an addition. Accordingly, binding regulations should be inserted to allow trucks that can demonstrably only be refueled with e-fuels to be permitted indefinitely. The interest group eFuel Alliance said: “Now we have another recital that ultimately does not commit to anything and we have to hope that the EU Commission will pick up this ball and submit further proposals for the inclusion of renewable fuels.” There was already a similar compromise in the dispute over the end of combustion engines.
SPD: German approval is an important signal
A spokesman for Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) said on Friday that the planned regulation on CO2 fleet limits does not set any requirements for specific types of drive. “The regulation only looks at the vehicles’ exhaust and does not prioritize any fuel option.” In this regard, she has always been open to any technology that does not produce CO2 in the exhaust. There is a lot of scope for e-fuels and biofuels.
The fleet limits for heavy commercial vehicles are not the only EU project over which there was a dispute in the coalition in the last few meters. There was also uncertainty about the German position regarding the EU supply chain law and the artificial intelligence law due to concerns from the FDP. Because the German government – even under Angela Merkel – was often unable to agree on a common position, an abstention in Brussels is also referred to as a “German vote”.
The transport policy spokeswoman for the SPD parliamentary group, Isabel Cademartori, sees the German approval of new CO2 requirements as an important signal. “The agreement now brings much-needed security for the industry through clear framework conditions,” she said.
Questions & answers from the EU Commission on emissions standards for heavy commercial vehicles