EU lawmakers approve law to ban new combustion cars by 2035

Sarhan Basem
Blurred silhouettes of cars surrounded by steam from the exhaust pipes. Traffic jam

Strong CO2 standards will ensure EU leadership in the shift to clean vehicles

Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) EU lawmakers approved a law that will phase out combustion engine cars — a move that will drastically reshape the bloc’s auto industry. The regulation will require that by 2035 automakers must achieve a 100 percent cut in CO2 emissions from new cars sold, which will make it impossible to sell new fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the 27-country bloc.

It also sets a 55 percent cut in CO2 emissions for new cars sold from 2030 versus 2021 levels, much higher than the existing target of 37.5 percent. New vans must comply with a 100 percent CO2 cut by 2035, and a 50 percent cut by 2030, compared with 2021 levels.

The regulation was approved by the parliament with 340 votes in favor, 279 against, and 21 abstentions.

MEP Jan Huitema (VVD, the Netherlands) Renew Europe

MEP Jan Huitema (VVD, the Netherlands) Renew Europe and the Parliament’s rapporteur on the CO2 emissions standards for cars and vans says:

“I am thrilled that the European Parliament endorsed the trialogue agreement reached on CO2 -standards for cars and vans today. This regulation means an ambitious revision of the targets for 2030 and a 100 % target for 2035, which is crucial to reach climate neutrality by 2050. These targets create clarity for the car industry and stimulate innovation and investments for car manufacturers. In addition, purchasing and driving zero–emission cars will become cheaper for consumers and a second–hand market will emerge more quickly. It makes clean driving accessible to everyone!”

EU countries agreed on the deal with lawmakers last October, but still, need to formally rubber stamp the rules before they can take effect. Final approval is expected by the European Council in March.

The law met resistance from some industries and countries when it was proposed in July 2021. As a result, the final deal includes some flexibilities including that small carmaker producing less than 10,000 vehicles a year can negotiate weaker targets until 2036.

The EU’s plan has global ramifications. As the world’s largest trade bloc, the EU has a reputation for setting standards globally and is home to many some of the biggest car manufacturers.

With heatwaves battering fields, rivers receding to record lows, and ski slopes remaining green where they should have been snowed under, Europe has started to feel the effects of climate change over recent months.

Being one of the major emitters in the world, Europe must be ambitious in ending its fossil fuel dependence, And it can, with its first opportunity fast approaching. 

Road transportation is responsible for 77% of all EU transport emissions, and despite accounting for just 2% of vehicles on European roads, heavy-duty trucks are responsible for over a quarter of road transport emissions.

With that in mind, any climate goal set by the EU also depends on the rapid transition towards zero-emission trucks.

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.