Press release

On combustion engines, a sigh of relief for cities? 

28 March 2023

Today, after intense diplomatic negotiations, the Council of the European Union endorsed the regulation that will lead to the phase out of internal combustion engines by 2035.


  • Eurocities welcomes the deal as a signal that the legislation banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars may soon be finalised. Eurocities has been supporting this legislation from the very beginning. The sale ban of fossil-fuelled cars and vans in Europe by 2035 is one of the pillars of the European Green Deal. The ban will bolster local governments in their quest towards climate-neutrality and in creating a healthier urban environment.  


  • Eurocities will continue to follow the next steps very closely in the coming months. Based on the recent agreement, the European Commission will consider Germany’s proposal to continue using combustion engines that are powered by e-fuels. However, research shows that e-fuels have a negative impact on air quality and that they “emit the same amount of NOx pollution as fossil fuels today”, as highlighted by a recent study commissioned by the Transport & Environment’s clean transport campaign group.


  • Eurocities is concerned by European member states’ attempts to water down several Green Deal initiatives, and in particular those affecting the transport sector. Any attempt to block the deal will harm people in our cities and the planet. European cities are therefore calling on member states to stick to the Green Deal Agenda and to step up decarbonisation efforts, in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s synthesis report. It is also worth noting that the deal falls short of addressing the challenges related to SUV emissions, which account for more than 40% of the total volume of vehicles sold in Europe. This is likely to set back efforts to reduce vehicles emissions and brings additional challenges for road safety in cities.


  • The ban on combustion engines is part of a wider set of measures – known as the Fit for 55 package – to cut greenhouse gases by 55% by 2030. As stated in a November 2022 joint letter that Eurocities signed with other stakeholders, a phase out by 2035 at the latest is a clear precondition for readying the road transport sector and reach the EU’s legally binding objective of climate neutrality by 2050, given that new vehicles frequently stay on EU roads for more than 15 years after their sale. 


  • Road traffic is still one of the main sources of air pollution in our cities, so if the EU doesn’t act on this now, the prospects for future targets may be rather grim. Over 74% of urban residents are still exposed to harmful levels of air pollutants at concentration levels above the recommended World Health Organisation guidelines.  

“Clean vehicles are essential to achieving the goals of the Green Deal – not least in cities,” said Burkhard Jung, the Mayor of Leipzig. “We are backing the proposed phase out of combustion engines by 2035 so we can ensure a healthy environment and a climate neutral future for our citizens,” Jung added.  

The Leipzig Mayor’s quote was part of a recent Eurocities social media campaign in which prominent German mayors shared their voices in support of the fossil fuel phase out.

Follow this online discussion and read other German mayors’ quotes:

For more, read Eurocities’ position paper calling for a full stop to fossil-fuelled mobility in cities: Eurocities-statement_CO2-standards-for-cars-and-vans

Media contact  

Daniela Berretta : +32 2 5520860. 


Thomas Lymes Policy Advisor, Mobility & Air Quality
Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer