Coalition, opposition battle lines fall along EU gas, diesel car sales ban

Traffic in Tallinn (photo is illustrative).
Traffic in Tallinn (photo is illustrative). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The issue of banning the sale of new cars which use fossil fuels divides the three would-be coalition parties from the three opposition parties, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday.

The European Parliament voted Tuesday to forge ahead with the ban

All three parties currently engaged in coalition talks: The Reform Party, the Social Democrats (SDE) and Eesti 200, are on the same page on this issue and are in favor of a proposed EU-wide ban on the sale of new cars which emit carbon, by the year 2035.

Sitting environment minister Madis Kallas (SDE) said Estonia will sign up to the EU regulation, as all decision-making stages have been attained.

Kallas told AK that: "Estonia's position has not changed. In our opinion, this is the right direction, and considering statements made to the effect that certain things are going to get very much worse, and considering we are talking about the future situation 13 years from now, we are talking about the fact that at that point in time, new cars will no longer be brought to market. However, older cars we already have will be able to continue on the roads. We don't really see much fear surrounding this."

Margot Roose, Eesti 200 spokesperson on green economy matters, concurred, saying: "Estonia has many other areas where it may one day be necessary to demand divergences [from EU regulations]."

"The topic of internal combustion engines certainly is not one of these, however. We do not have our own auto industry which would likely need to be protected, while the share of cars on the roads in Estonia has also increased very rapidly in recent years. New mobility solutions are coming; ride sharing, and all those types of things."

Vivian Loonela, who is Head of the European Commission Representation in Estonia, acknowledged that some member states, notably Germany, the largest member state, are interested in some small concessions or divergences from the overall regulations.

"Representation of EU Member State, along with the Council of the EU (not to be confused with the European Council or the European Commission-ed.), had to give their final approval [to the regulations] this week," Loonela told AK.

"Germany still supports the 2035 target whereby new cars that emit CO2 are no longer on sale in the EU. However, a solution is being sought to a specific problem there, concerning synthetic fuels," she went on.

All three parties making up the de facto opposition-in-waiting, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), the Center Party and Isamaa – the latter is still in office on a formal basis until the new coalition deal is inked, and is not involved in coalition negotiations – see the 2035 ban as an unrealistic target.

Center's former environment minister, Erki Savisaar, told AK that his party: "Is clearly against banning cars with internal combustion engines; the picture needs to be broader. We concur that carbon neutrality must be achieved, and there are many ways to achieve this, but we can also have internal combustion engines alongside this."

"In fact, there are completely environmentally friendly alternative fuels available for the same older cars that we drive today," he added.

Other member states who have questioned the workings of the ban and suggested they would seek exceptions include Bulgaria, Poland, Italy and the Czech Republic.

The European Parliament on Tuesday formally approved a law to effectively ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars within the union from 2035, with the aim of expediting the switch to electric vehicles and more broadly, to combat climate change.

The Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition talks started earlier this week, following Sunday's election. The three parties together have 60 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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