BRUSSELS — The European Union has reached an agreement to effectively ban new combustion engine cars from 2035, a move that will reshape transport and mark a major step on the road to reducing carbon emissions.
The EU’s three key institutions – its executive, parliament and member states – agreed on Thursday to a deal that will oblige carmakers to reach a zero emissions target by 2035.
The move means that new petrol and diesel cars will no longer be registered for use on the region’s roads after 2035. This will accelerate the shift to fully electric vehicles.
The deal also included a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions for new cars sold from 2030 compared to 2021 levels, well above the existing target of a 37.5% reduction by then. .
“This is the start of a great transition for the European Union,” said Jan Huitema, Parliament’s main negotiator.
The deal marks a surprisingly quick step forward for what was one of the EU’s most controversial proposals when it was announced a year ago as part of a green overhaul of the bloc’s economy. And it sounds the death knell, at least in Europe, of a mode of transport that has dominated the region since its invention in the 19th century.
“European carmakers are already proving they are ready to step in, with increasingly affordable electric cars hitting the market,” EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said in a statement. “The speed at which this change has happened over the past few years is remarkable.”
The agreement has global ramifications. As the world’s largest trading bloc, the EU has a reputation for setting global standards and is home to many of the biggest automakers.
Volkswagen, Stellantis, Ford, Bentley and Jaguar are among carmakers that have said they will stop selling petrol and diesel cars in Europe by 2035 or earlier.
There are few exceptions to the new rules. The council and parliament have both agreed that niche manufacturers – including Lamborghini – that produce a small number of vehicles will get a one-year delay on emissions targets.
A non-binding element favored by member states that asks the commission to offer to register vehicles running exclusively on carbon-neutral fuels after 2035 was included in the final deal.
The fear of the “Havana effect”
“We now look forward to seeing the framework conditions that are essential to achieve this goal reflected in EU policies,” said Oliver Zipse, President of ACEA, the lobby group for European car manufacturers and CEO of BMW.
“These include an abundance of renewable energy, a seamless network of private and public charging infrastructure, and access to raw materials,” Zipse said.
The regulation will be the first to be approved under the EU’s green plans, known as “Fit for 55”, which aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% this decade. Other policies include a major overhaul of the bloc’s carbon market, as well as measures to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Some groups have criticized the deal, suggesting it could lead to a buildup over time of older, emissions-causing cars rather than newer generations of potentially more efficient cars.
“With today’s agreement, a ‘Havana effect’ becomes more realistic,” said Jens Gieseke, MP and negotiator for the conservative European People’s Party, in a statement. “After 2035, our streets could fill with old cars because new cars are either unavailable or unaffordable. Today’s agreement closed the door to new technological developments and put all the eggs in the same basket. It’s a mistake.”
Green campaigners have welcomed the ban, which will see the EU become the biggest economy to phase out sales of polluting vehicles. Cars and vans are responsible for 16% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, said Brussels-based environmental lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E).
“The days of the carbon-spitting, pollution-spewing combustion engine are finally numbered. It’s been 125 years since Rudolf Diesel revolutionized engine efficiency, but lawmakers have decided that the next chapter will be written by the electric vehicle more clean and better. For the planet and human health, this can’t come fast enough,” said Julia Poliscanova, senior director of vehicles and mobility at T&E.
There is a push to completely ban combustion engine cars in the United States. California passed plans in August to mandate a phase-out of vehicles that run on combustion engines, with only zero-emission cars and a small portion of plug-in hybrids allowed by 2035. The move will reverberate beyond of the Golden State, as the rule will likely be adopted by 15 other states that have signed on to California’s existing zero-emission vehicle program.
Reuters contributed to this report