Department for Transport publishes responses to consultations on how to regulate emissions standards for cars, vans, and lorries from January
The government has today clarified how EU-wide vehicle emissions standards will be retained in the UK following the end of the current transition period on January 1st 2021, even as fears mount that Brexit could deliver a major blow to UK electric vehicle (EV) exports.
Just months before the UK is set to fully leave the EU's regulatory frameworks, the Department for Transport today published formal responses to two consultations detailing how long-standing emissions standards for cars, vans, and heavy duty vehicles (HDVs) will be translated into UK law.
EU emissions standards have required manufacturers to steadily reduce average emissions across their fleet year-on-year and have been credited with driving a sharp improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency over the past decade, while also incentivising auto companies to develop new EVs through a system of 'super-credits' that allow zero emission models to count more towards overarching emissions goals.
However, the emissions standards regime has also faced criticism from some green groups who have alleged it is not ambitious enough and has failed to address rising demand for high emission SUVs. Earlier this month, campaign group Transport & Environment warned that while EVs were on track to command a 15 per cent market share across the EU next year the expansion of the market risked stalling unless emissions standards were tightened.
Some responses to the UK government consultation similarly warned that average fleet emissions targets for manufacturers were not ambitious enough.
But the government concluded it would broadly retain the current EU targets. In its response to the consultation it said the decision to keep the current standards for manufacturers was driven by a desire to "retain policy that supports the delivery of our wider ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions from transport in support of net zero" and "provide certainty to vehicle manufacturers on plans for regulation following the transition period and minimise additional reporting burdens".
It added that the planned changes would "ensure that GB regulation is at least as ambitious as the regulatory regime established in the EU".
The announcement means UK manufacturers will still have to meet fleet emissions standards for 2020 in line with the EU average goal of 95g CO2/km and 147g CO2/km for cars and vans, respectively. They would then also be required to meet targets for 2025 and 2030 that would be calculated using a formula based on the EU average vehicle mass.
The government acknowledged that some respondees to the consultation had suggested that comparing the UK fleet to the EU average vehicle mass would lead to a weakening of emissions targets, as UK vehicles are, on average, heavier than the EU average.
However, Ministers opted to ensure continuity for manufacturers by retaining the current approach, while also hinting that the calculations that underpin the standards could be strengthened in the future.
"As the UK's average fleet mass is heavier than the EU's average mass, one of the consequences of adopting the current regime is that the sum of individual manufacturer targets in the UK will be slightly higher than the sum of targets in the EU," the consultation responses states. "While this may therefore appear to be a slight relaxation of standards, by retaining the average EU mass value, it replicates the same level of effort required by manufacturers as under the current scheme in the EU. This ensures that the regulation is as ambitious as existing arrangements. If the UK average mass value was used to calculate manufacturer targets instead, it would make targets immediately more challenging. The average mass value is updated every three years: on the first such occasion, the UK average mass will be used."
The consultation response also confirms that the government is to close a loophole that could have led to manufacturer being able to avoid vehicles counting towards their emissions standards by shipping them to Northern Ireland, where the EU regime will be retained.
And it announced modest changes to the system of 'super-credits' that lowers the cap on their use. The government argued the new cap represented a compromise between fears that if the cap is too low it will disincentivise the development of new zero emission models and if it is too low it will enable manufacturers to expand their EV range so as to allow them to sell more high emission models.
Similarly, the response to the consultation on emissions standards for HDVs confirmed the government will broadly retain current targets so as to ensure the new UK regime is "at least as ambitious as the current arrangements for vehicle emissions regulation".
As such, emissions standards will remain unchanged, although the government has tweaked some reporting requirements to establish a UK-specific baseline for HDV emissions alongside the EU baseline.
The news came on the same day as the BBC reported that it had seen a draft EU document that suggests the bloc is about to formally reject a UK plea for special allowances for exports of electric cars in a post-Brexit trade deal.
The draft, which was circulated among EU member states on Tuesday, states that Annex II of the agreement on "Product Specific Rules of Origin" will specify the "maximum content of non-originating [that is non EU and UK] materials of 45 per cent of the ex-works price of the vehicle" for "electrified vehicles" from January 1st 2021.
The move would effectively reject a UK proposal, also seen by the BBC, that in the case of electric and hybrid cars, only a minority of parts would at first need to be either from the UK or the EU - and up to 70 per cent could come from elsewhere.
The draft, seen by the BBC, means that even if there is a deal some UK car exports to the EU would not be eligible under the planned terms. And as such some EVs exported from the UK to the EU that contained a significant number of components imported from overseas would face tariffs of 10 per cent.
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