The deal represents the first made under the EU's flagship Fit for 55 package to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. But Greenpeace EU lambasted the 2035 deadline as too late and said that it falls short of the bloc's climate commitment.
European legislators on Thursday evening reached an agreement to phase out the sale of new combustion engine cars and vans by 2035.
The deal between representatives of the European Parliament and the European Council was struck at around 21:00 CET and represents the first made under the bloc's flagship Fit for 55 package to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
The new legislation plans for a 55% CO2 emission reduction target for new cars and 50% for new vans by 2030 compared to 2021 levels and for a 100% CO2 emission cut by 2035, effectively prohibiting the sale of new combustion engine cars.
Transport accounts for 30% of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions and almost two-thirds of oil used in the EU, according to the European Environment Agency.
"With these targets, we create clarity for the car industry and stimulate innovation and investments for car manufacturers. In addition, purchasing and driving zero-emission cars will become cheaper for consumers," Dutch MEP Jan Huitema, the Parliament's rapporteur, said in a statement.
Frans Timmermans, who took part in the negotiations as the Commission's representative, took to Twitter to celebrate the agreement, writing: "EU car industry is ready, consumers are eager to embrace zero-emission mobility. So let’s go full speed ahead!"
Josef Síkela, minister of industry and trade of the Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, added that the deal "will pave the way for the modern and competitive automotive industry in the EU."
"The world is changing, and we must remain at the forefront of innovation. I believe we can take advantage of this technological transition. The envisaged timeline also makes the goals achievable for car manufacturers," he argued.
But not everyone agrees.
Greenpeace EU lambasted the 2035 deadline as too late and said that it falls short of the bloc's climate commitment.
"The EU is taking the scenic route, and that route ends in disaster. 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," the group's 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 UN has just confirmed that the climate crisis will spiral out of control unless governments take rapid and decisive action, including a shift to cleaner modes of transport," she added.
European car manufacturers meanwhile described the deal as an "extremely far-reaching decision" that is "without precedent" and said the 27 EU countries will need to accelerate the transition in order for it to be feasible.
"Make no mistake, the European automobile industry is up to the challenge of providing these zero-emission cars and vans," Oliver Zipse, CEO of BMW and President of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said.
"However, we are now keen to see the framework conditions which are essential to meet this target reflected in EU policies. These include an abundance of renewable energy, a seamless private and public charging infrastructure network, and access to raw materials," he added.
The legislation also plans for the incentive mechanism for zero- and low-emission vehicles (‘ZLEV’) to be revised with a higher benchmark in order to ensure that it is aligned with the current sales trends and brings affordable zero-emissions cars on the EU market and for existing rules for labelling of fuel economy and CO2 emissions for cars to be reviewed by the end of 2024.