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European auto sector must decarbonise rapidly to support Paris climate goal - report

Thu 20 September 2018 | Back to news list

A new report by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) for Greenpeace says that new petrol and diesel car sales in Europe must be phased out by 2030 if the sector is to contribute its part to meeting the Paris Climate Change Agreement's 1.5°C goal. According to the report authors, the motor industry will exhaust its 'carbon budget' within 5-10 years unless there is a radical shift.
The report - "Development of the car fleet in EU28+2 to achieve the Paris Agreement target to limit global warming to 1.5°C" - is based on two scenarios developed by researchers from the DLR Institute of Vehicle Concepts in Stuttgart. The first describes what is required with regard to the passenger car fleet and car market in order to keep global warming below the 1.5°C threshold defined in Paris with a 50 percent likelihood. The second scenario sets a target probability of 66 percent to reach this objective. Both scenarios are based on data by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
According to the study, the 50-percent scenario is still achievable, providing no more purely petrol or diesel-powered cars are sold from 2030 and, from 2037, no more hybrid vehicles with combustion engines. This implies that the number of cars with conventional drives will steadily decline and, by 2050, there will only be alternatively-powered cars on Europe's roads, with the exception of a few hybrid vehicles.
The researchers say, however, that the 66-percent-likelihood scenario is unachievable and the required carbon budget will be exceeded – even with extremely progressive assumptions about the development of the car fleet.
Prof Horst Friedrich, DLR’s director, told the Guardian: “Auto CO2-emissions need to peak as soon as possible. Looking at the dwindling carbon budget it is crucial to push low-emitting cars into the market, the earlier the better, to renew the fleet.”
“It would be much easier to keep a 2°C target because there is a higher carbon budget and therefore more time to implement the necessary measures,” Friedrich said. “I estimate it could provide us with up to 10 years more time to prepare much better for the fundamental transformations necessary.”
The Guardian reports that a draft report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear that 2°C of warming would expose around 10 million more people in coastal areas to floods, storm surges and crop damage than 1.5°C would. Global sea levels would also rise by an extra 10cm, heatwaves would be longer, extreme weather events stronger, economic growth lower, while crop yields and water availability would substantially decline.
So far, the European commission has proposed a 30% cut in vehicle emissions by 2030, although MEPs are pushing to raise that figure to 45%.
An ACEA spokesperson (quoted in The Guardian) said: “It is still hard to predict whether the alternative powertrains will have gained a significantly high market share by 2030. This is dependent on factors that are outside the control of automobile manufacturers, such as the necessary recharging infrastructure being in place as well appropriate incentives.”

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