BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Average carbon dioxide emissions from new cars sold in the European Union fell 3 percent last year, remaining below EU targets for 2015 as part of efforts to slow climate change, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Thursday.
The agency's research guides EU policymakers, who are reviewing proposals by the European Commission to tighten laws on air quality, emission limits and new vehicle authorizations following the Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE> emissions scandal.
Pollution from new vehicles slipped to 119.6 grams of CO2 per kilometer, beating by 8 percent the EU goal of 130 grams, the Copenhagen-based EEA said in a report.
The data mapped a steady decrease, mainly due to more energy efficient vehicles and increasing sales of electric and hybrid vehicles.
From 2021, the EU official emissions goals will drop to 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer.
"If current trends continue, we will reach the target of 95 grams," Cinzia Pastorello of the EEA said.
She cautioned, however, that the data was based on outdated official tests that recorded emissions around 30 to 40 percent lower than those in real-world driving conditions. The European Commission is in the process of trying to enforce stricter testing.
New cars sold in the 28-nation bloc rose 9 percent last year to 13.7 million, in the second year of more positive figures for carmakers following a slump in sales during the recession from a peak of 15.5 million in 2007.
Although hybrid and electric vehicles account for just 1.3 percent of all new EU car sales, EEA data shows, the number of pure battery-electric vehicles registered last year increased by 50 percent to 57,000, compared to a year earlier.
The defeat device software Volkswagen used to cheat on emissions test was to conceal toxic nitrogen oxide emitted by diesel vehicles, which continue to account for more than half of all cars sold in the EU, according to the EEA.
Although not illegal, altering CO2 emissions in cars can be achieved via a variety of engineering techniques to reduce fuel consumption such as switching off air conditioning, pumping up tyre pressure or improving aerodynamics by removing mirrors and taping up doors.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Barbara Lewis and David Evans)