Fit for 55: A review and evaluation of the European Commission proposal for amending the CO2 targets for new cars and vans

The European Commission’s “Fit for 55,” regulatory proposals are intended to secure a European Union (EU) economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction of at least 55% by 2030. One of the regulatory proposals adopted by the EC is to amend the mandatory CO2 emission targets for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (vans). This briefing summarizes and evaluates the key elements of this proposal before it enters the political negotiation process between the European Parliament and the Council.

The EC proposal strengthens the current 2030 CO2 targets, from -37.5% to -55% for new passenger cars and from -31% to -50% for new vans, both relative to a 2021 baseline. In addition, the proposal introduces a new 2035 CO2 target set at -100% for new cars and vans, again relative to a 2021 baseline. The 2025 CO2 target remains unchanged at -15% for both new cars and vans. The EC does not propose any interim targets nor a transition to annual instead of stepwise target values.

As written, the Commission’s proposal for strengthening the CO2 emission standards for new cars and vans could avoid 2.8 Gt cumulative CO2 emissions by 2050 and could be leveraged by further strengthening the proposed standards for cars and vans as well as strengthening the CO2 standards for trucks and extending them to buses.

Benefits for consumers and society could be increased by a factor of four by introducing higher ambition standards. In addition, additional CO2 reductions are achievable at a lower cost than stated in the Commission’s proposal. The analysis finds that the most impactful strategies to increase the emission reductions for new cars and vans are to increase the 2030 CO2 reduction target to at least 70%, to increase the 2025 CO2 reduction target to at least 30%, and to switch to annual CO2 targets after 2025.

In order to further maximize the benefits of CO2 reductions, the Commission should consider phasing out zero-and low-emission vehicle credits earlier than 2030 or to raise the benchmark target for 2025 to 20% and to limit any credits to battery electric and fuel cell vehicles. The Commission should also introduce a real-world driving correction mechanism for manufacturers’ CO2 target performance by 2025 and to adjust type approval CO2 values based on real-world on-board monitoring data. In addition, the Commission should update the vehicle mass adjustment factor as well as the reference mass used in the regulation on an annual basis.