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by Tim Beissmann

Average CO2 emissions from new cars in the European Union decreased by 3.7 per cent in 2010.

The improvement brings average emissions down to 140g/km and puts the EU on track to reach its target of cutting average tailpipe emissions to 130g/km CO2 by 2015.

EU climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, told Reuters she expected the region’s new vehicle fleet in 2015 to go beyond the targets set in 2008.

“These data show again that setting targets … stimulates the car industry to put greener cars on the market,” Ms Hedegaard said.

“These innovations also ensure Europe’s car industry remains competitive in the changing global market.”

Carbon dioxide emissions decreased less in 2010 than they did in 2009 however (3.7 per cent vs 5.1 per cent), and this is linked in part to the average weight of vehicles, which increased 28kg last year alone.

Arne Richters, programme manager for clean cars for environmental campaigner Transport & Environment, said the EU needed to focus on encouraging people to purchase smaller cars and, more importantly, discourage people from jumping up to SUVs.

“That is no surprise as EU rules favour heavier cars by allowing them to emit more CO2. That needs to change,” Mr Richters said.

“The EU should be favouring more efficient saloons, estates and hatchbacks rather than encouraging gas guzzling, tall and heavy SUVs. Promoting heavier cars is holding back CO2 reductions.”

In the EU, 29 per cent of new vehicles emit less than 120g/km CO2. In contrast, according to the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide, there are just 20 different car models in Australia that beat this level, and of those only the Volkswagen Golf consistently rates inside the top 20 from a monthly sales perspective.

Denmark and Portugal are the countries with the lowest average CO2 emissions, while Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden all reduced their emissions by around eight per cent in 2010.

Let us know your thoughts on the issue. Is CO2 a consideration when you are looking at new cars, or are you not bothered by it? And would you be more likely to purchase a lower-emitting vehicle if there was a larger range available in Australia?