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Commission lays down the law to car makers

Date

01 Sep 2009

Sections

Transport

The European Commission today warned car manufacturers that new types of vehicle cannot be sold on the European market from 2011 unless they comply with requirements to reduce global warming emissions from air conditioning systems.

Enterprise Commissioner Gunther Verheugen was responding to a challenge by Chris Davies MEP (UK, Liberal Democrat), ALDE environment spokesperson, who claimed that the car makers were challenging the Commission and trying to avoid compliance.

Verheugen told the European Parliament's Environment Committee: "The rule is in force. It has to be applied. New cars must meet the new requirements or the vehicles will not receive type approval and cannot be placed on the market."

"It seems we are in a poker game," said Davies, "and the question is 'who will blink first?'

"If the Commission backs down just months before the Copenhagen conference on climate change we risk opening the floodgates to special pleading from industry."

Verheugen confirmed that car manufacturers were failing to order alternative refrigerants so that chemical companies were not investing in the plant needed, but declared: "I am convinced the production capacity can be made available."

Davies said today that he was delighted with the Commissioner's response.

He said: “The selfish behaviour of the car manufacturers has shown complete disregard for wider interests. They have had billions of euros in support from national governments, and it is time that they took a lead in helping reach Europe’s ambitions of reducing the release of global warming gases.”

"Now the European Commission has raised the stakes and told them 'don't mess with us!' The message could not be more clear."

ENDS.

NOTES TO EDITORS

The air conditioning systems in almost all cars on European roads used a hydrocarbon refrigerant known as HFC134a that has a global warming potential (GWP) 1,450 times greater than carbon dioxide.

EU legislation approved three years ago requires the use of alternative refrigerants with a much reduced global warming potential to be used in all new models placed on the market from 2011. It has led to the development of two competing alternative air conditioning systems, one using CO2 (GWP 1) and one using a new hydrocarbon, HFC1234 (GWP 4).

Until economies of scale bring about a reduction in costs, use of the new systems could add €30-50 to the price of new cars.

Earlier suggestions by car manufacturers that the law was open to different interpretations and need not be applied from 2011 were effectively swept aside in March, when Commissioner Verheugen issued detailed guidelines to national type approval authorities.

Vehicle makers are now claiming that it will be impossible to meet the 2011 deadline because the alternative refrigerants will not be commercially available. But producers of the gases say that they are waiting for orders to be placed before constructing the manufacturing plant necessary.

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For more information, please contact:
Neil Corlett: +32-2-284 20 77 or +32-478-78 22 84
e-mail: neil.corlett@europarl.europa.eu
Euan Roddin: +32-2-284 41 57or +32-475-59 13 74

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