Saturday, February 03, 2007

It's the Economy, Stupid

Late last year we organised an international network of anti-4x4 groups across Europe and the US. Our french colleagues at Agir pour l'Environnement recently pulled off a media stunt to reveal the inconsistency of Fiat, who have decided to launch a new 4x4 that will emit 250 gm CO2 / km in urban areas. This is a tragedy, because Fiat have so far been one of the rare few manufacturers to keep to their EU emissions targets, according to the T&E report last year; the Italian maker's average emissions levels were currently on target at 140 gm.
Fiat isn't alone. Renault joined the 4x4 bandwagon late last year. The reason? Well, according to the industry, consumers simply aren't buying enough small and efficient cars; consumers want larger and more powerful cars. As a consequence, the manufacturers' hands are tied to advertise and sell large 4x4s. Cynical, isn't it?
Meanwhile the Earth is heating up and government ministers and industry executives act as if the Stern report was never published. While the EU environmental commisioner Stavros Dimas wants to set binding emissions regulations for the industry,
the chiefs at BMW, DaimerChrysler, Ford, Opel and Volswagen have strogngly urged the commision to withdraw plans to make manufacturers reduce CO2 emissions of new cars sold in the EU to an average of 120 gm/km in 2012. Why? According to the Wall Street Journal, 'One out of seven jobs in Europe's largest economy depends on the auto industry. German manufacturers -- including DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes unit, BMW AG, Porsche AG, and Volkswagen AG's Audi brand -- are particularly vulnerable because their lines are thick with vehicles that have heavy engines and churn out relatively high CO2 levels.' In other words, it's the economy, stupid.
So, while we need to do everything we can to prevent climate change, we mustn't do anything that upsets the economy. Or really, we mustn't do anything to upset the status quo.
We look forward to seeing if the EU has any conscience to withstand the industry's resistance to change.