By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU politicians on Wednesday backed a compromise deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles from 2020 and also called for a 2025 target that would make cars even more fuel efficient.
The proposal still has to be voted on by the full European Parliament and needs the endorsement of member states, notably Germany, which has led calls for leeway for its carmakers at a time that the industry is suffering from recession and reduced demand.
Ireland, holder of the rotating EU presidency, has said it hopes for a final deal before the Commission holiday in August.
"This is a real revolution and an enormous challenge for the European car makers," said German Christian Democrat politician Thomas Ulmer, who has led the debate in parliament.
The Commission, the EU executive, has pushed for efficiency and lower emissions as part of wider goals to cut greenhouse gases and curb reliance on expensive oil imports.
Wednesday's compromise sets a 2020 emissions limit of 95 grams per kilometer (g/km) as an average for new EU cars. It allows manufacturers to claim supercredits to partly offset the requirement for some modelsbut sets strict limits on the number.
Car makers have pressed for flexibility in the form of supercredits, which allow them to continue producing more powerful, fuel-intensive cars if they also make very low emission vehicles, such as electric cars.
The members of the European Parliament, meeting in committee, also backed a 2025 goal in a range of 68-78 g/km.
The Commmission predicts that implementation of a 95 g/km target for cars by 2020 and 147 g/km for vans will result in fuel savings of 160 million tonnes of oil equivalent over the decade to 2030.
INCENTIVES VERSUS LOOPHOLES
Ivan Hodac, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association which represents EU carmakers including Daimler, Volkswagen and Renault, said supercredits were a useful incentive and that every major market had them.
He also said it was too early to decide on the details of any targets beyond 2020.
"Yes we need to have a long-term target, but it has to be based on a scientific assessment, not a political target," he said in an interview.
Wednesday's propoal was welcomed by campaign groups.
"CO2 standards for cars show how environmental law is not only good for the planet but also creates widespread economic and societal benefits," said Greg Archer, a program manager at Transport & Environment.
Representing consumers, the European Consumer Organization BEUC said Wednesday's vote should mean lower fuel bills that would quickly offset any increase in car purchase prices resulting from new technology costs.
"We are reassured that MEPs did not cave in to industry pressure to make excessive use of supercredits. They would have significantly lowered car manufacturers' obligations to reduce emissions of their conventionally fuelled car fleets," BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said in a statement.
The EU car industry has led the shift to lower-carbon, fuel-efficient vehicles, but the United States is catching up.
U.S. President Barack Obama has launched clean car standards. which he said would nearly double fuel efficiency by 2025 compared with that of vehicles already on the roads.
Non-profit research organization the International Council on Clean Transportation said the U.S. standards equated to 93 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2025 for ordinary cars, excluding sport utility vehicles.
(Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach; editing by Jane Baird)