Putting on the brakes: the shortsightedness of EU car decarbonization policies


The EU styles itself as a climate leader, yet its emission reduction objectives are seen as insufficient to limit global warming. While the European Green Deal (EGD) increased the farsightedness of some aspects of EU climate legislation, its objectives still fall short of what is required. To better understand shortsightedness in EU climate policy, this article examines the shortsightedness of sectoral climate legislation: the EU Regulations on the CO2 emission performance standards of new passenger cars (2009, 2014, 2019, Fit For 55). It applies a shortsightedness framework composed of four criteria: (1) consistency of standards with long-term goals; (2) stringency and (3) adaptability of the legislation; and (4) presence of long-term thinking. The assessment shows that the Car Regulations have been characterized by a high degree of shortsightedness, worsened by loopholes for carmakers and symbolic stringency. While the inconsistency between the car emission standards and the economy-wide emission reduction objectives increased over time, the zero-emissions by 2035 standard of the Fit For 55 Regulation is in line with the economy-wide net-zero by 2050 objective. Research into what drives shortsightedness in the EU could shed light on the nature of this shift.