The European Union is ready to abandon its long-established goal of cutting carbon dioxide limits for new vehicles to 120g/km by 2012. Under a proposal introduced during negotiations between nations in the EU late last week, the 120g/km limit originally set for 2012 would be pushed back to 2015, a delay of three years. The consensus was reached among the majority of the 27 member nations of the EU, who see the current economic crisis as a major hurdle for carmakers attempting to development cleaner vehicles.

While the member nations may have agreed on abandoning the goal for now, the motion still must be passed in the European Parliament before it comes into effect. Despite this, it appears that European manufacturers will be able to breathe a sigh of relief - for now, anyway. The current nation holding presidency in the EU, France, has indicated its support of the proposal, as has the European Commission, which is remaining empathetic to the plight of auto manufacturers, and the effect these strict emissions limits would have on them, Reuters reports.

Italy, however, is one of the only major automobile producing countries standing in opposition to the compromise position. If the proposal were to be passed by the European parliament, manufacturers would have to adhere to the current limits of 130g/km, rather than the new ones intended for 2012 - though due to variations in the way it would be applied, small car makers like Fiat would be hit with harder restrictions than carmakers that build primarily larger cars, like BMW reports Automotive News. Fiat thinks this disparity, which could have the Italian company restricted to just 122g/km of CO2 output by 2012 while BMW faces a target of 137g/km, is patently unfair. The Dutch, on the other hand, are still asking for even harsher restrictions and a quicker start to the phase-in process.

At any rate, the current proposal would see a secondary deadline set for 2015. After 2015, those manufacturers who exceeded the 120g/km limit would be subject to sharply rising penalties. During the negotiations between the member states, another CO2 limiting target was agreed upon - this time to cut emissions to just 95g/km by 2020. Current average CO2 emissions levels for most carmakers are around 160g/km.