Landmark deal for climate as EU agrees 2035 cut-off for polluting cars

European governments and MEPs agreed to end sales of new combustion engine cars and vans by 2035.

Green group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomed the deal, which will see the EU become the largest economy to phase out sales of polluting vehicles. Cars and vans are responsible for 16% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.

Julia Poliscanova, senior director for vehicles and mobility at T&E, said: ‘The days of the carbon-spewing, pollution-belching combustion engine are finally numbered. It’s 125 years since Rudolf Diesel revolutionised engine efficiency, but lawmakers have decided the cleaner, the better electric vehicle will write the next chapter. That can’t come fast enough for the planet and human health.’

Under the agreement, automotive manufacturers will be required to reduce emissions of new cars sold by 55%% in 2030, compared to 2021, before reaching a 100% CO2 cut five years later. T&E said the 2025 and 2030 targets are too weak to significantly drive down emissions in this decade and called on lawmakers to improve taxation and charging policies to spur the take-up of zero-emissions cars. Subsidised leasing schemes, like the one promised by the French government, will also be needed to make electric cars more accessible.

T&E said a robust EU industrial strategy – including local content requirements for electric vehicles and batteries – is necessary to ensure European carmakers keep up in the global race to lead on this green technology. Chinese EV makers, which have benefited from years of subsidies and state-backed finance for their supply chains, are fast gaining market share in the EU. In the US, the Inflation Reduction Act places European manufacturers at a steep disadvantage to their American rivals.

Julia Poliscanova said: ‘Foreign carmakers are eating the Europeans’ lunch. The EU needs a joined-up strategy for its auto industry that speeds up electrification and future-proofs European jobs. Global competition is needed for scale and innovation, but manufacturers should make more EVs and batteries in Europe. On the demand side, Europe needs a seamless charging network and policies to help middle and lower-income families drive electric cars too.’

Lawmakers also agreed to ask the Commission to find a role for e-fuels in vehicles outside the regulation’s scope, though this is non-binding. The agreement now goes to EU Environment Ministers and the European Parliament for final ratification before it becomes law.