No surprises here really. The European Commission has missed a vital chance to impose tough curbs on CO2 emissions from cars after fierce lobbying from the car lobby, especially German manufacturers.

Instead the Commission will opt today for a blueprint on emission limits that avoids placing the maximum burden on car-makers.

The decision comes after months of lobbying by the car lobby, and the intervention of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. It has seen an open feud between the Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and his counterpart with responsibility for industry.

However, the announcement will still create the toughest standards imposed on vehicle makers anywhere in the world and force car manufacturers to make drastic changes.

All 27 European commissioners are expected to adopt a plan at a meeting today that would oblige makers of new cars to impose an average limit in CO2 emissions of 130g per km (gpk) for EU-manufactured vehicles by 2012. But the EU will still stick to an overall target of 120gpk which, it says, can be achieved by other means such as increased use of biofuels and more fuel-efficient tyres.

The deal has been criticised by environmental campaigners. Caroline Lucas, the Green MEP for south- east England, said: “Today’s decision is deeply disappointing and calls into serious question the Commission’s commitment to addressing climate change. Just a month ago, the EU unveiled its new energy strategy to great fanfare, with claims that the EU was going to play a real global leadership role – and yet here we see it falling at the first hurdle.”