BRUSSELS EU policymakers took the first steps towards regulating emissions from lorries through greater fuel efficiency on Wednesday, but stopped short of the targets that have forced car manufacturers to make their vehicles pollute less.
As part of wider efforts to cut the need for imported energy, especially from Russia, the European Commission is seeking to improve energy efficiency across all sectors.
It has introduced carbon dioxide limits, based on improved fuel efficiency for cars and vans, but emissions from what the Commission refers to as heavy-duty vehicles are unregulated.
The Commission, the EU executive, put forward a strategy to start monitoring the amount of carbon dioxide new trucks emit and said it would propose legislation next year.
European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said that in time, the measures would "cut the CO2 emissions of these vehicles, save operators money and make the EU less dependent on imported oil".
EU nations have agreed to reduce emissions from new cars to 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre (g/km) by 2021, down from around 127 g/km in 2013.
But emissions from heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) have been rising. The numbers are less exact than for cars, but Commission data found overall HDV emissions rose by 36 percent between 1990 and 2010.
It said heavy trucks represent about a quarter of road transport emissions and 5 percent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions.
The EU has been a world leader in car emissions standards, but on trucks campaigners say it risks lagging the United States, which has begun to introduce fuel efficiency standards for the sector.
"Europe is just treading water. Fuel economy standards will slash fuel bills, reduce oil and diesel imports and cut climate-changing emissions," William Todts, senior policy officer at campaign group Transport & Environment, said.
European automakers welcomed the Commission's strategy for trucks, which is based on using a simulation tool to calculate emissions, saying fuel efficiency was a top priority. They said CO2 emissions from trucks and buses were not necessarily best addressed by "one size fits all" mandatory limits.
"As an industry we need to be as close to the real market as possible, rather than showing that we are compliant with an ‘artificial’ framework based on legal targets," Erik Jonnaert, secretary-general of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, said.
The association brings together commercial vehicle makers including Daimler Trucks, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VOWG_p.DE) and Volvo Group.
(Editing by Dale Hudson)