Motorcycles face EU clampdown on emissions

Thu Jan 28, 2010 11:48am EST

* EU eyes CO2 curbs for motorcycles as tackles transport

* Industry welcomes carbon labelling, level playing field

By Pete Harrison

BRUSSELS, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Motorcycle manufacturers face a clampdown on air pollution and climate-warming emissions in the European Union, and the industry says it is ready for pan-European rules. Climate officials of the 27-country bloc have put transport emissions at the top of their agenda for 2010 as the EU pursues its goal of cutting carbon dioxide to a fifth below 1990 levels over the next decade.

Cars are expected to cut their CO2 output 15 percent by 2015, while vans face a cut of around 10 percent. Now the focus has switched to less widespread vehicles, such as lorries, motorcycles and scooters.

"We need to move towards a zero emissions transport mode," Mattia Pellegrini, an adviser to European transport commissioner Antonio Tajani, told the ACEM motorcycle industry conference in Brussels on Thursday.

"It's not only for the car sector to take the lead," he added. "The (motorcycle) sector can play an important role."

Europe's motorcycle industry employs about 150,000 workers and includes brands such as Italy's Ducati and Germany's BMW (BMWG.DE). Around 90 percent of manufacturing takes place in Italy, France and Spain.

The European Union is about to embark on a major push towards electric power for vehicles in the fight against climate change, and Pellegrini said motorcycles and scooters could play a role there.

"Many times we make the mistake that electro-mobility is only about cars," he said.

Motorcycles' CO2 emissions comprise less than one percent of the total emissions from European road transport, says ACEM.

European regulators are already looking at curbing particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from motorcycles, said Giacomo Mattino, second in charge of automotive issues in the European Commission's industry department.

"Carbon dioxide will be an element," he told Reuters. "It's in our work-plan for 2010."

He signalled a cautious approach, putting consumer awareness first. The timing and detail of any carbon caps would likely fall to environment officials such as the nominee for climate commissioner, Denmark's Connie Hedegaard, he added.

"I think regulators regard carbon labelling as a first and easier step, because setting CO2 limits proves quite complicated," he said. "But it should not be to the detriment of the regulator's ability to set ambitious limits."

ACEM, whose members include over 800 motorcycle and parts manufacturers, said it supported making buyers aware of how much CO2 bikes pump out. And it welcomed a level playing field.

"We would like any European regulation to be carefully done to avoid any turbulence," said ACEM secretary general Jacques Compagne.

"We had a very bad experience with Spain and the change to a CO2 tax, which generated turbulence in the Spanish market," he told Reuters. (Reporting by Pete Harrison)

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