[WATCH] Miriam Dalli confident car industry will respond to CO2 law despite resistance

New EU car emissions legislation will not force people to change their car but it will contribute to a change in culture and mentality, Labour MEP Miriam Dalli says

Labour MEP Miriam Dalli has piloted EU legislation to cut CO2 emissions in new cars
Labour MEP Miriam Dalli has piloted EU legislation to cut CO2 emissions in new cars

For 12 months Miriam Dalli has had to face opposition from the strong automotive lobby as she proposed EU legislation that forces manufacturers to produce less polluting cars.

And there was a glimpse of this during a public discussion in Malta on the new legislation that will see new cars emitting 37.5% less CO2 by 2030.

Ian Mizzi from the Mizzi Organisation, a major car importer in Malta, said the transport sector was being singled out as a cause for the increase in incidence of asthma and respiratory allergies when other industries like construction were responsible for this.

He also lamented that the efforts to curb CO2 emissions in new cars would be scuppered in Malta where 60% of cars sold were second-hand, and thus older and less efficient.

Dalli was unfazed by the arguments.

“Nobody is saying the car industry on its own was responsible for air pollution and there are different regulations at EU level that target other sectors but this cannot be used as an excuse for the auto industry to get off scot free,” she responded, adding that one other area where she would like to see progress was the maritime sector.

The Labour MEP added that by making new cars cleaner, they will eventually become second-hand cars that pollute less.

“I am concerned on the dumping of second-hand cars in Malta,” she responded to another query from the audience. “But this EU-wide legislation does not prevent the individual member states from taking their own initiatives to address particular issues linked to the transport sector.”

Dalli said the proposed legislation will not force people to change their existing car or ask them to retrofit it with newer technology.

“It is not even about electric cars… the law talks of new cars with a 37.5% reduction in CO2 emissions irrespective of whether they are electric, hybrid or with a traditional combustion engine,” she said. The legislation speaks of zero and low emission vehicles.

She insisted the law that was finally agreed to between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council last December, will contribute to a change in mentality.

Dalli’s initial target was for a 40% reduction in CO2 by 2030 but had to settle for 37.5% cut amid opposition from the automotive industry.

“The automotive association had objected but when I met individual companies I found that not all were sceptical of the proposal. There were differences between companies that have been investing in newer technology and others that may have lagged behind,” she said.

There is an 11-year transition period from now until 2030 during which car manufacturers can develop better technology to fulfil the obligation.

Dalli said the drive to cut emissions did not only have an environmental and health dimension but also a social and economic one.

She said the development of newer technology could create more jobs Europe-wide and in Malta. Although Malta has no native car manufacturing industry, there are companies that produce components for cars.

“I am confident things will change and in the past, we have seen industries going beyond the stipulated targets,” Dalli said.

“Reducing CO2 emissions will help us fight climate change, improve public health, breathe cleaner air while making sure that European industries remain at the forefront of innovation,” Dalli said.

During the debate, Professor Simone Borg, who chairs the Institute of Climate Change at the University of Malta, said irrespective of whether one believed that climate change was happening, reducing pollution was good for everyone.

“Climate change is happening but even those who are sceptical should be able to understand that we lose nothing by reducing emissions… this is a new pathway to live better and cleaner lives,” Borg said.

She did underscore the importance of reducing the dependence on private car use as a means of transport.

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