Car manufacturers in Europe were given a severe warning from the European Commission yesterday that they face stringent new laws if they fail to live up to their commitments to cut carbon dioxide emissions.European, Japanese and Korean carmakers were all threatened with mandatory cuts after figures showed that they were on course to miss key target to reduce CO2 levels. The new data shows that CO2 emissions from new cars dropped by 12.4% between 1995 and 2004, but this still falls way behind the target of a 25% reduction.

Stavros Dimas, Europe’s environment commissioner said: “To combat climate change and respect our Kyoto commitments, we have to reduce CO2 emissions from transport – a sector [contributing] significantly to overall emissions.”

Gregor Kreuzhuber, the European commission’s industry spokesman, added that the Commission “will not hesitate to replace the carrot with the stick. This would be regulation. The car industry should be aware that we are watching the situation very closely.” He also let slip that the European Commission has SUVs or 4x4s in its sight. “The heavier the car, the greater the CO2 emissions.”

So the heavier the car, the bigger the tax? About time.