The role of the European Union’s vehicle CO2 standards in achieving the European Green Deal

This briefing paper identifies several possible levels of stringency for the post-2021 CO2 standards in the European Union for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles and compares them against economy-wide greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030 and 2050, as well as the 2050 target for transport sector emission reductions in the EU Green Deal.

The analysis shows that currently adopted policies would reduce 2030 CO2 emissions by 24% from 2020. A policy scenario that achieves a 50% reduction in light-duty type-approval targets from 2021 to 2030 and sets a 100% zero-emission light-duty vehicle sales target by 2040 would reduce 2030 CO2 emissions by 27% compared to 2020. By 2050, a 90% reduction would be achieved compared to only 53% under adopted policies. In a higher-ambition scenario, where 100% zero-emission light-duty vehicle sales are achieved by 2030, CO2 emissions would be reduced by 35% in 2030 and by 97% in 2050. For heavy-duty vehicles, a higher-ambition policy scenario, in which a zero-emission sales target is achieved in 2040 and efficiency improves by 8.4% for medium-duty trucks and buses and 7.2% for heavy-duty trucks annually until 2030, CO2 emissions are reduced by 15% in 2030 and 91% by 2050.

Recommendations for the upcoming standard reviews for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles include setting the stringency of the 2030 fleet-average type-approval targets for light-duty vehicles as close to 0 gCO2/km as feasible, considering a fleet-average maximum for CO2 emissions from remaining internal combustion engine vehicles, and closely monitoring real-world CO2 performance and expediting the adjustment of manufacturers’ average CO2 emissions.