EU countries back truck emissions law after German hold-up

By Thomson Reuters Feb 9, 2024 | 10:03 AM

By Kate Abnett and Markus Wacket

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union countries voted to pass a law to reduce emissions from trucks on Friday, after late demands by Germany had threatened to sink the policy.

The move is the latest in a string of last-minute upsets to European Union laws, caused by disputes within Germany’s three-way coalition government.

A reinforced majority of EU countries approved the trucks law on Friday, in a vote postponed from earlier this week, the EU representation for Belgium, which holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, said in a post on X.

The law, which will enforce a 90% cut in CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles by 2040, still needs approval from the EU Parliament to enter into force.

To win Germany’s backing, EU countries agreed to add a preamble to the law which said the European Commission would consider developing rules to register trucks running on CO2 neutral fuels, which could count towards the targets, diplomats told Reuters.

The Commission is not obliged to come up with these rules, but merely consider them.

Such rules could effectively allow countries to count more combustion engine trucks that run on CO2 neutral fuels towards the EU targets, as opposed to switching more of their fleets to electric vehicles.

Climate-neutral e-fuels, like e-kerosene, e-methane, or e-methanol, are made by synthesizing captured CO2 emissions and hydrogen.

The wiggle room for CO2 neutral fuels was requested by Germany’s Free Democrat (FDP) Transport Minister Volker Wissing, government representatives told Reuters. Neither the environment nor transport ministries would comment on the reasons for the delayed vote earlier this week.

It is unusual for a country to ask to change an EU law at such a late stage. Negotiators from EU countries and the European Parliament had already agreed a deal on the truck emissions law last month that was supposed to be final.

But German government in-fighting has held up numerous EU laws. Last year, Germany won a similar loophole for combustion engine cars running on CO2 neutral fuels, in the EU’s 2035 ban on sales of new CO2-emitting cars, after a last-minute objection by the German transport ministry.

On Friday, EU countries also postponed a vote on a supply chain law after FDP resistance.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, Markus Wacket;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)