BRUSSELS, Belgium: The energy ministers of European Union member countries have approved a landmark law to end sales of new CO2-emitting cars by 2035, despite Germany winning an exemption for cars that run on e-fuels.
After weeks of delay caused by last-minute opposition from Germany, Europe's main climate policy for cars can now enter into force.
Under the new law, which aims to drive the rapid decarbonization of new car fleets in Europe, all new cars must have zero CO2 emissions beginning in 2035, as well as 55 percent lower CO2 emissions from 2030, compared with 2021 levels.
The European Commission has pledged, however, to create a legal route for sales of new cars that only run on e-fuels to continue after 2035, after Germany demanded this exemption.
Before Germany won the exemption, the EU policy had been expected to make it impossible to sell combustion engine cars in the bloc from 2035. But the exemption offers a potential lifeline to traditional vehicles, despite e-fuels not yet being produced at scale.
German transport minister Volker Wissing said the agreement would "open up important options for the population towards climate-neutral and affordable mobility."
"The direction of travel is clear: in 2035, new cars and vans must have zero emissions," said EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans, according to Reuters.
As e-fuels are made using captured CO2 emissions, which supporters claim balances out the CO2 released when the fuel is combusted in an engine, e-fuels are considered carbon neutral.
In autumn 2023, the European Commission will decide how sales of e-fuel-only cars can continue after 2035.
Italy, Bulgaria and Romania abstained from the vote, while Poland voted against the law.