Denmark made the proposal came during a meeting of EU environment ministers in Luxembourg.
The 2050 goals are part of Ursula van der Leyen’s plans, the new president of the European Commission, to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050. The Danish delegation argued that to achieve this the transport sector needs to decrease their emissions, which is the only sector that currently are increasing its emissions.
The EU aims to cut carbon emissions in the bloc by 40 percent by 2030 while its executive, the Commission, plans to reduce them to zero by 2050 to help stop global warming.
“We need to acknowledge that we are in a bit of a hurry,” Danish Climate and Energy Minister Dan Jorgensen told Reuters after the meeting.
Denmark made headlines in October 2018 when its government announced that it would ban the sale of all new fossil fuel-powered cars by 2030 but it subsequently scrapped the idea because this would have breached EU rules.
Jorgensen said proposing to allow individual member states to ban sales on new diesel and petrol cars will hopefully put pressure on the Commission to propose a complete phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the bloc in the coming decades.
Jorgensen also said if the EU could not agree on a union-wide ban, it would be good if at least individual countries were allowed to implement such a measure.
“Plan A would be to make it a European ban,” he said.
Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and several other countries however suggested that more must be done to stop the “carbon leakage” of selling second-hand autos from western Europe to the eastern region.
Jorgensen said it was important to communicate the bloc’s long-term policy directions to carmakers. He said Denmark’s next step was to set up an alliance with the 10 member states that support its strategy to phase out diesel and petrol cars and the possibility to prohibit the sale of them in individual member states.
“Then I think others will follow,” he said.