Signalling the end of the internal combustion engine (ICE), the European Union-27 bloc countries have approved a plan to eliminate carbon emissions to zero by 2035. EU member states' environment ministers cleared the final plan after Italy was able to convince auto manufacturing companies in the country to give up on their demand for a five-year delay in the current proposal. The consensus was reached after Germany’s proposal to allow countries to use carbon-neutral fuels such as synthetic fuels or plug-in hybrids.

The plan also says that 'niche' manufacturers or those producing less than 10,000 vehicles per year will be exempted for five years. The clause is aimed at benefitting the luxury brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini.

In a landmark verdict on June 9, European lawmakers had voted in favour of banning the vehicles that run on petrol and diesel by the year 2035. The EU parliament also rejected attempts to water down Emission Trading System targets, while calling for a methodology for assessing the full life-cycle of CO2 emissions. The EU Parliament supported revised CO2 emissions standards for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, part of the “Fit for 55 in 2030” package.

CO2 emissions from cars

Transport was responsible for about a quarter of the EU’s total CO2 emissions in 2019, of which 71.7% came from road transportation, according to a report from the European Environment Agency. Transport is the only sector where greenhouse gas emissions have increased in the past three decades, rising 33.5% between 1990 and 2019. The EU aims to achieve a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050, compared with 1990. This is part of its efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and achieve climate neutrality by 2050 under the European Green Deal roadmap.

Moreover, CO2 emissions from passenger transport vary significantly depending on the transport mode. Passenger cars are a major polluter, accounting for 61% of total CO2 emissions from EU road transport. Experts say significantly reducing CO2 emissions from transport will not be easy, as the rate of emission reductions has slowed. Current projections put the decrease in transport emissions by 2050 at only 22%, far behind current ambitions.

There are two ways to reduce CO2 emissions from cars: by making vehicles more efficient or by changing the fuel used, says the report. In 2019, the majority of cars road transport in Europe used diesel (67%) followed by petrol (25%).

However, electric cars are gaining traction, representing 11% of all newly registered passenger vehicles in 2020, it says. Sales of electric vehicles -- battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – have surged since 2017 and tripled in 2020 when the current CO2 targets started to apply, it says, adding that electric vans accounted for 2.3% of the market share for newly registered vans in 2020.

India, on the other hand, has committed to achieving a net-zero emissions target by 2070. At the 26th conference of Parties (CoP26), Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared a five-fold strategy to achieve the feat. It includes achieving 500 GW of non-fossil energy capacity by 2030; meeting 50% of energy needs from renewable energy by 2030; cutting CO2 emission by 1 bn tonnes by 2030, and cutting carbon intensity by less than 45% by 2030.

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