Majority of Estonian MEPs vote in favor of latest EU CO2 emission targets

Cars in a scrapyard.
Cars in a scrapyard. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

In a vote taken on Tuesday, four of Estonia's seven MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) supported a regulation banning the sale of new combustion engine cars from 2035. ERR reports on the reasons behind their positions on the issue.

Andrus Ansip and Urmas Paet (both Reform) along with Sven Mikser and Marina Kaljurand of the Social Democratic Party, all voted in favor of the proposed regulations. Meanwhile Jaak Madison from the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Riho Terras (Isamaa) voted against. Yana Toom (Center) initially supported the proposal, before changing her position to abstain.

Andrus Ansip

Andrus Ansip (Reform), who is a member of the Renew Europe group and vice president of the European Commission, told ERR that, "we can already see how the whole automotive industry is moving towards the wider use of electric motors. Many European car manufacturers have also already independently decided to phase out the production of passenger vehicles with internal combustion engines, some by 2030, others by 2035."

"It would be sensible to set some kind of clear end date in Europe, after which no one should be able to assume any kind of privileged position as the sole remaining producer of cars with internal combustion engines. There has not been much debate around this decision," Ansip said.

Andrus Ansip. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

According to Ansip, there is still plenty of time to implement the necessary changes before 2035.

Ansip also stressed, that those cars with internal combustion engines, which are currently in operation, will not simply disappear in 2035, and could still be used for the next 20 years.

Urmas Paet

Urmas Paet (Reform), who is also a member of the Renew Europe group, stressed that, the regulations provide an opportunity for technological innovation and freedom.

"We can see today how, the motor industry and all other forms of technology, are developing very rapidly. If we don't set deadlines, there will be no incentive for change. This decision does not mean that only electric cars will have to be used. Other forms of technology, such as hydrogen are also possible," Paet said.

MEP Urmas Paet (Reform). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Paet also pointed out, that the deadline for regulations to enter into force is twelve years away, which is a long enough period for the necessary preparations to be made. "If it becomes clear, for whatever reason, that the transition will not be possible by then, it can still be changed," he added.

Marina Kaljurand

Marina Kaljurand (SDE), who is a member of the Progressive Alliance of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, said that she supported the regulations.

Kaljurand explained, that she had recently spoken to a number of experts, as well as representatives of the motor industry, who all confirmed that the target was realistic and achievable.

"Since new cars with internal combustion engines will no longer be allowed to be sold from 2035, but no one is banning those cars, which are already in use, the transition should be smooth," she said. In addition, experts are also, for example, talking about the use of hydrogen in cars, which means there may be other alternatives to the internal combustion engine, Kaljurand added.

Marina Kaljurand. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Asked whether the capacity of the electricity and distribution network will be sufficient for the introduction of electric cars en masse, Kaljurand said, "Estonia is a small enough country to have sufficient systems in place by then."

Sven Mikser

Sven Mikser (SDE), who is a member of the same group in the European Parliament, said it was an important and necessary initiative. "Of course, it also means there is a need for technological development as well as the reorganization of, and investment in, infrastructure," Mikser said.

Asked whether this was achievable, he answered, that while it is clear, that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced, at the same time it is necessaryt to work towards achieving energy sovereignty for the European Union.

Sven Mikser. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

However, in order to achieve this goal, we need to get to work now and not wait around. The preparations will be huge and far-reaching and the investments (required) will be substantial," Mikser stressed.

Yana Toom

Yana Toom (Center) of the New Europe Group, also voted in favor of the adoption of the regulation, according to the minutes of the meeting. However, Toom told ERR, that she had since reconsidered her position and will now use the opportunity to change her vote to abstain.

Yana Toom. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"I can't take a position either for or against this. I understand, that there are arguments on both sides. But is it all realistic? Probably not," Toom said. "I'm on the fence," she added.

Riho Terras

Riho Terras (Isamaa), from the European People's Party (EPP) group, which is the largest group in the European Parliament, said he voted against the regulation as he does not think such a rapid transition is technologically feasible. He also believes these kinds of decisions should not be made based on sloganeering.

Neither the technological, nor the infrastructural solutions for such a switchover are currently in place, Terras said. "And especially in Estonia, where we have decentralized settlement and a car is not a luxury, but a necessity. This aspect is particularly important," he said.

Riho Terras. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

In addition, Terras raised the question of where all the electricity for the vehicles would come from, especially considering the current electricity shortages in Europe as well as plans to close down fossil fuel and nuclear power plants.

"It's only a little over ten years away! That is not realistic," he said.

Terras also admitted, that nearly half of the MEPs in the EPP group were against the regulation. "If our group had voted in unison, it would not have passed," he said.

Jaak Madison

Jaak Madison (EKRE), who is part of the Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament, said he did not support the regulation because he considered it a utopian fantasy.

"The parliament has become caught up fantasy and utopian ideology," Madison said.

"Europe's share of the global car industry is already declining," he said. "And if we now have to close more plants due to this regulation, tens of thousands of people in Germany and elsewhere will be out of work," he said.

Jaak Madison. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"It is simply not realistic to switch to electric cars. Maybe in big cities electric cars are possible, but in the Nordic countries, and even here, where people are live quite spread out (from each other), they can't use electric cars. It will be just like in the Soviet era, when only the elite could afford a car, but ordinary people could not. This is madness!" said Madison.

Only one more decision needed for regulation to enter into force

On Tuesday, the European Parliament approved the new CO2 emission reduction targets for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles as part of its "Fit for 55" package.

The decision means, that only new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, which do not emit any CO2 will be able to sold in the EU from 2035. Intermediate emission reduction targets for 2030 are set at 55 percent for cars and 50 percent for vans, of 2021 levels.

The initiative has already been endorsed by the Council of the European Union, representing the governments of the member states, and has gone through the co-ordination phase with the European Parliament, which on Tuesday approved the agreed final text. It still needs to be adopted by the council in a final vote, which is expected to happen in March.

The transport sector is responsible for 25 percent of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions. For the EU to achieve its target of reaching climate neutrality by 2050, transport emissions must be cut by 90 percent. According to the European Commission, the new rules will provide investment certainty for the auto industry and foster innovation and competition, which will drive down the cost of electric cars. The regulation does not affect trucks or buses.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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