MEPs split over higher emission reductions for heavy-duty vehicles and buses

Centre-right EPP votes against more onerous CO2 reductions for trucks and buses in committee vote that will now head to plenary

Heavy-duty vehicles such as buses, trucks and trailers will have to adopt stricter CO2 emission standards under new rules proposed by the European Commission, but which are now heading into a contested vote at the European Parliament.

The EP’s environment committee managed to adopt the proposals by 48 votes in favour and 36 against, apart from 1 abstention: the centre-right European People’s Party voted against, together with members of the right-wing European Conservatives and the far-right ID Group.

The report will call for a strengthening of CO2 emission reduction requirements for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) and rolling-out the necessary recharging and refuelling infrastructure, playing a key role in reducing the emissions of the entire HDVs fleet to achieve the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality goal.

MEPs are scheduled to adopt the report during the November II 2023 plenary sitting and will constitute Parliament’s negotiating position with governments on the final shape of the legislation.

The strong CO2 emissions reduction targets for medium and heavy trucks, including vocational vehicles such as garbage trucks, tippers or concrete mixers, and buses, would be set at 45% for the period 2030-2034, 70% for 2035-2039 - compared to 65% proposed by the Commission - and 90% as of 2040. All newly registered urban buses should be zero-emission vehicles from 2030. Member states can request a temporary exemption until 2035 for urban buses fuelled by biomethane, under strict conditions linked to the presence of refuelling infrastructure and to the fuel’s origin.

“The transition towards zero-emission trucks and buses is not only key to meeting our climate targets, but also a crucial driver for cleaner air in our cities,” said Dutch rapporteur Bas Eickhout (Greens). “We are providing clarity for one of the major manufacturing industries in Europe and a clear incentive to invest in electrification and hydrogen. We’re building on the Commission’s proposal, but with more ambition. We want to expand the scope of the rules to small and medium-sized lorries and vocational vehicles - sectors which are especially important for urban air quality – and we’re adapting several targets and benchmarks to catch up with reality, as the transition is moving faster than expected.

The heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) CO2 Standards Regulation (EU) of 2019 had already set new binding CO2 targets starting to apply from the year 2025 onwards. However, a revision was necessary in order to bring this law in line with the ambitions of the European Green Deal and the strengthened emission reduction targets of the European Climate Law.

Heavy-duty vehicles, such as trucks, city buses and long-distance buses, are responsible for over 25% of GHG emissions from road transport in the EU and account for over 6% of total EU GHG emissions. These emissions continue to increase, especially in freight transport, an upward curve mainly driven by growing road transport demand, which is expected to keep increasing in the future.

Stronger CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles remain key to drive down CO2 emissions in the sector and improve air quality.

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