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European Union Deal Cuts Car Emissions In 6 Years

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The economic slump appears to have affected Europe's effort to improve the environment. European carmakers seem to have won a tentative victory in their efforts to stave off a deadline for tougher emissions standards. Teri Schultz has more from Brussels.

TERI SCHULTZ: Even before the dramatic downturn in the global economy, the auto industry claimed it would be severely damaged by stringent new caps on greenhouse gas emissions proposed by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, to go into affect in 2012. Now carmakers say it could be a crippling blow if they're forced to invest heavily in developing new models and carbon-cutting technology with consumer demand falling. The government of Germany, as Europe's largest auto producer of Europe's largest autos, took up its manufacturers' fight against the new limits, backed by data showing six months of falling car sales, a plunge of almost 15 percent in October alone.

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And in closed-door talks late yesterday, negotiators from EU governments and the European Parliament agreed the standards would only apply to all new cars in six years, rather than the Commission's three-year deadline. They also reduced the fines for failure to comply. Olivier Hoedeman of the European watchdog group Corporate Europe Observatory calls the deal a huge disappointment, a success for what he calls scaremongering by the auto industry.

Mr. OLIVIER HOEDEMAN (Research Coordinator, Corporate Europe Observatory: It's an example of how vested interests have managed to postpone and sometimes even prevent very necessary environmental regulations.

SCHULTZ: The provisional agreement still needs to pass the full European Parliament in all 27 EU governments, but negotiators say they expect swift approval. For NPR News, I'm Teri Schultz in Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.