A group of countries including Italy are pushing to water down a key element of the European Union’s climate agenda: phasing out the combustion engine by the middle of the next decade.
Italy, home to iconic supercar marques like Ferrari and Lamborghini, is one of five signatories pushing for a five-year delay in the EU’s plan for automakers to eliminate emissions from the vehicles they sell, according to a proposal seen by Bloomberg News.
It sets up what is likely to be a challenging day of talks on Tuesday as France, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, pushes the bloc’s energy ministers to agree on a host of green legislation.
As well as auto emissions, the package also includes a contentious proposal to reduce a flagship fund to help the shift to a green economy and a sweeping reform of the region’s carbon market.
For its part, France has largely stuck to proposals put forward almost a year ago by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, to implement a stricter emissions-reduction goal of at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels.
They included a plan to phase out the combustion engine in new cars by 2035, a target that the presidency recommended to endorse under a compromise proposal seen by Bloomberg News.
Lawmakers in the EU parliament backed a plan to eliminate new car emissions earlier this month, taking Europe a step closer to ending a mode of transport that has dominated society for more than a century.
Italy, alongside Bulgaria, Slovakia, Portugal and Romania, is seeking a 90% reduction in carmakers’ emissions by 2035, the year that the European Commission has targeted a 100% cut.
It also wants to secure an exemption for niche manufacturers, such as Ferrari, until at least 2036.
“For us, technological neutrality is the key issue,” said Roberto Cingolani, Italy’s energy minister.
“We don’t believe that having just a single solution for the transportation problem is a solution. We propose that we open the menu.”
The country has been particularly concerned with the push to decarbonize road transport, with it lagging some of its European peers and also boasting a strong supercar industry.
While Ferrari now plans to have its first fully electric vehicle hit showrooms in three years, it will be late to the party – Porsche started selling its battery-powered Taycan model in 2019.
The Italian group of countries is also pushing for renewable fuels to be recognized, something critics say is a way of prolonging the use of the combustion engine.
In an attempt to enable a compromise, Germany proposed the idea of registering after 2035 vehicles running exclusively on carbon-neutral fuels, which could include those produced synthetically.
The addition is important to Germany and can be a bridge for the overall discussion, said Environment Minister Steffi Lemke.
“We need a strong and fast CO2 reduction, but we need to keep openness on technologies,” she told the ministers.
“We hope that this addition, which is important to the German government, hopefully this is agreeable and which can enable us to reach a joint acceptable solution.”
An agreement among ministers Tuesday would define member states’ negotiating stance for further talks with the EU Parliament and the European Commission on the final shape of the so-called Fit for 55 package.