The European Union agreed on legislation Thursday that would ban the sale of new gas and diesel vehicles in the 27-nation bloc by the year 2035. The law, which has not yet been formally approved, aims to speed up the switch to electric cars and vans to fight climate change.
"This is a historic decision as it sets for the first time a clear decarbonization pathway," said Pascal Canfin, the chair of the environment committee of the European Parliament. "This sector, which accounts for 16% of European emissions at the moment, will be carbon neutral by 2050."
The deal, which would require car manufacturers to cut CO2 emissions for new cars sold by 100% by 2035, would also require them to cut emissions by 55% by 2030 for new cars and 50% for new vans. Officials said it would be good for drivers, as well as the environment.
"New zero-emission cars will become cheaper, making them more affordable and more accessible to everyone," the lead negotiator for the European Parliament, Jan Huitema, said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Transportation is the only sector in the EU where carbon emissions have increased over the last three decades, according to EU data.
With regulators increasing the pressure on car companies to curb their emissions, some are already increasing investment in electric. Volkswagen CEO Thomas Schaefer said earlier this week the brand will only produce electric vehicles in Europe by 2033.
EU member states and the EU parliament still need to formally approve the new legislation for it to come into effect.
The climate group Greenpeace said it didn't go far enough.
"A European 2035 phase-out of fossil fuel-burning cars is not quick enough: New cars with internal combustion engines should be banned by 2028 at the latest," Greenpeace EU transport campaigner Lorelei Limousin said. "The announcement is a perfect example of where politicians can bask in a feel-good headline that masks the reality of their repeated failures to act on climate."
The EU is working on finalizing another two policies to fight climate change ahead of COP 27 next month that would set binding goals on emissions cuts and expand Europe's natural carbon-absorbing "sinks."
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