Review of the CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles

In “A European Green Deal”

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On 14 February 2023, the European Commission tabled a legislative proposal (COM(2023) 88 final) to revise Regulation (EU) 2019/1242 setting CO2 emission standards for new heavy-duty vehicles (HDV) in the EU. This initiative was part of the Commission's 2022 work programme. A public consultation was held from 20 December 2021 to 14 March 2022. 

Road transport is a major contributor to climate change, and CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles have grown by 25 % since 1990, accounting for over a quarter of road transport CO2 emissions.

The existing Regulation EU 2019/1242 sets the first-ever EU CO2 emission standards for new heavy-duty vehicles. By 2030 new large trucks should emit 30 % less CO2 than today, with an intermediate target of 15 % by 2025. The Regulation required the European Commission to assess the effectiveness of the Regulation in 2022, with a view towards its possible extension to buses and other types of heavy-duty vehicles, and emission reduction targets for 2035 and 2040. In order to promote development and marketing of zero- and low-emission vehicles, manufacturers can benefit from incentives if they achieve certain sales targets (a 2 % share of manufacturers' sales as of 2025).

The proposed revision would expand the scope of the Regulation to include urban buses, coaches, trailers and other types of lorries. The average CO2 emissions of heavy-duty vehicles, compared to 2019 levels, would have to fall by 45 % from 2030, by 65 % from 2035, and by 90 % from 2040 onwards. The proposal sets CO2 requirements for new trailers and targets 100 % of newly registered urban buses to be zero-emissions vehicles from 2030. The incentive scheme for zero- and low-emission vehicles would end in 2029, but manufacturers would be allowed to take into account emission credits or emission debts also after 2029. The proposed regulation integrates and repeals Regulation (EU) 2018/956 on monitoring and reporting of CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of new heavy-duty vehicles.

The Italian Senate and the Italian Chamber of Deputies sent reasoned opinions stating concerns about subsidiarity.

The European Economic and Social Committee adopted its opinion on the proposal on 12 July 2023. It calls for a CO2 emission reduction trajectory aligned with the industry’s capacity to transform and with transport operators’ needs regarding costs and operational efficiency. It considers that the ‘tailpipe’ approach to HDV emissions should be complemented by policy instruments to incentivise the use of renewable, non-fossil fuels for internal combustion engine vehicles. Moreover, it advocates a life-cycle approach to avoid a shift of emissions upstream in the value chain. It generally welcomes a higher speed of decarbonisation, which can boost structural transformation, promote EU leadership in the clean transport industry and ensure fairness for workers. While acknowledging the importance of a regulatory stimulus for the deployment of zero-emission vehicles, it calls for a focus on the demand side and enabling conditions for logistics operators.

In the Council, the Commission presented the proposal to environment ministers on 1 March 2023 and the Working Party on the Environment started the examination of the proposal and its impact assessment. The Environment Council discussed the proposal on 16 March 2023 and held a policy debate on 20 June 2023.  The Council adopted its general approach on 16 October 2023. The general approach amends the definition of 'zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle' and introduces extra heavy combination lorries as a sub-group of vehicles. It lowers the 2030 target for new urban buses to 85 % zero-emission vehicles, and moves the 100 % target to 2035. The Council wants the Commission to review the regulation in 2027, a year earlier than proposed by the Commission, including a report on progress in the deployment of recharging and refuelling infrastructure for alternative fuels.

In the European Parliament, the proposal was referred to the ENVI Committee, which appointed Yannick Jadot (Greens/EFA, France) as rapporteur. He presented his draft report on 26 May 2023.

Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, Netherlands) became rapporteur after Mr Jadot was elected to the French Senate and resigned as MEP.

The ENVI Committee adopted its report on 24 October 2023. It raises the emission reduction target for the 2035-2039 period to 70 % and extends the scope to vocational vehicles such as garbage trucks. Member States would be allowed to request a temporary exemption (until 2035) for urban buses fuelled by biomethane. The report introduces an annual ‘Zero-Emission HDVs Forum’ and requests the Commission to consider developing a methodology for reporting the full lifecycle CO2 emissions for new HDVs.

The Parliament adopted the report in the November 2023 plenary session with 445 votes in favour, 152 against and 30 abstentions. The Parliament's position confirms the emission reduction targets proposed by the Commission and requests the Commission to develop a methodology for registering heavy-duty vehicles running exclusively on CO2 neutral fuels.

Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement in the first trilogue on 18 January 2024. The agreement maintains the CO2 reduction targets proposed by the Commission. It sets a 100% zero-emission target for urban buses by 2035 and an intermediate target of 90% by 2030. The Commission will have to assess a possible methodology for assessment of the full lifecycle CO2 emissions of new HDVs, including a methodology for registering HDVs exclusively running on CO2-neutral fuels.

The provisional agreement was endorsed by the Coreper on 9  February 2024 and by the ENVI Committee on 14 February 2024. The  Parliament approved the text during the April I 2024 plenary session. The regulation will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal and will apply from 1 July 2025.


Further reading:

Author: Gregor Erbach, Members' Research Service,

Visit the European Parliament pages on climate change.

As of 20/04/2024.