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Volkswagen announces CO2 emissions reduction plan won't use supercredits

Volkswagen and Greenhouse jointly announced a plan in which the automaker will meet EU's strict CO2 emissions target by 2020 in a way that will satisfy environmental activist demands.

Reaffirming the ability of automakers to reduce the environment and climate impact of the cars we drive, Volkswagen and Greenpeace have jointly announced an agreement for Volkswagen to reduce the fuel consumption of its new vehicle fleet. That fuel consumption reduction will reduce in lower carbon footprint for Volkswagen's vehicle fleet, meeting the European Union emissions target. What's more, Volkswagen is committing to reaching that target without using the controversial supercredit system.

The decision was announced after the first top-level meeting between Volkswagen and Greenpeace, and is attributed to Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Executive Board of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, and Greenpeace Chief Executive Director Brigitte Behrens.

That meeting was focused on how Volkswagen would meet climate change emissions targets. Winterkorn claims that Volkswagen would reach the emission target set by EU legislation by 2020. That target is an average of 95 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometer. He is quoted saying: “I guarantee that we will do everything in our power to reach carbon dioxide emissions of 95 grams without any reservations. However, this will only be possible if customers accept our advanced alternative powertrains. This is of course our objective.”

Behrens supported Volkswagen saying “This is a decision in favor of climate protection and a key signal for committing to the protection of the environment and society and the series production of climate-friendly technical solutions. We will remain in dialogue with Volkswagen, also as regards mobility concepts for the future.”

Volkswagen plans to also meet similar targets in the USA and China.

The two organizations have been talking for over two years, sometimes confrontationally, about the reduction of CO2 emissions in the entire Volkswagen fleet. An issue with the calculation of fleet average emissions is the way electric and hybrid vehicles are counted. These vehicles earn "supercredits" allowing each electric or hybrid vehicle sold to have a bigger impact on the calculation. Each car emitting less than 50g/km of CO2 would be counted as 3.5 passenger vehicles in 2012 and 2013, 2.5 in 2014, 1.5 in 2015 and then 1 from 2016 onwards in contributing to manufacturers’ CO2 targets for their entire fleet.

Some European environmental activists position these supercredits as a ploy by automakers to continue selling gas guzzlers. But the supercredits also are a means to encourage automakers to begin building electric and hybrid cars. In the U.S. a similar "supercredit" system is used in CARB's ZEV mandate.

Volkswagen was required by EU law to meet these emissions reduction targets anyway. The actual news here is that Volkswagen is committing to do so without the supercredits.

Volkswagen is pledging to continue constructive dialogue about further environmental targets with independent environmental protection organizations.

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