An environmental regulation forcing carmakers to produce greener cars has been thrown into doubt by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.
Under new rules, manufacturers would face hefty fines if they failed to cut their cars’ average CO2 emissions to 130g/km.
But at a meeting last week, committee members said they had concerns with the way the regulation was drafted.
‘The committee said that the proper legal basis for the regulation is Article 175 of the EC Treaty, which deals with environmental laws,’ said Jay Nagley, publisher of the consumer website cleangreencars.co.uk.
‘But it has been drafted under Article 95, which prevents market distortions.
‘This isn’t just a technicality; the whole legal basis of the regulation could be challenged,’ Nagley added.
It is thought the EU wanted to push the regulation through under Article 95’s single market rules to stop some member states setting tougher CO2 limits than others.
Cleangreencars.co.uk claims the Legal Affairs Committee also expressed ‘utmost misgivings’ about the way in which fines would be collected and how the cash would be used to support EU budgets.
The committee’s verdict means negotiations on targets, fines and start dates may have to start from scratch next year.
However, the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders played down the risk of CO2 targets being scrapped.
Environment spokesman Dr Anthony Hume told us: ‘The European Commission and member states have specifically developed the new car CO2 regulation under article 95 to guarantee its uniform application across the EU’s single market. This was recently endorsed by the EU’s Industry Committee.
‘The Legal Committee’s opinion will doubtless help to test the robustness of the regulation but the SMMT expects an early resolution.
‘Article 95 is the only realistic basis that can deliver a sustainable outcome for this important regulation,’ Dr Hume added.
In a separate development, the European Parliament’s Industry Committee voted to postpone the introduction of CO2 emissions standards for three years – from 2012 to 2015.
The group also tabled amendments to water down CO2 targets and cut fines for non-compliant carmakers.
It is now up to the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, which is leading the process, to consider these views. The vote was due to take place last week, but has now been postponed until 25 September.
More on low-CO2 cars
If you’re confused about CO2 emissions and greener cars, read our guide to green car technologies. It explains the differences between hybrid cars, efficient diesels and electric cars, giving you all the information you need to choose a more efficient motor.