The European Parliament has approved new carbon dioxide (CO2) restrictions on light commercial vehicles that will slash emissions by 28% from 2020.

Under the rules, all new light commercial vehicles sold across the European Union will emit a maximum average of 147 g/km of CO2 instead of the 203 g/km today, a level set in 2007.

The 147 g/km by 2020 target is for maximum average emissions authorised for the entire fleet of models made by each manufacturer registered in the European Union of vans of up to 2.610 tonnes unladen and 3.5 tonnes laden. It will apply to manufacturers producing more than 1,000 vehicles per year.

Manufacturers will therefore have to produce enough cleaner models to outweigh heavier or more polluting vehicles in order to achieve an overall ‘balance’ of 147 g/km by 2020, or face significant financial penalties.

European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the target was both ‘accessible’ and not too expensive for manufacturers. The legislation will be reviewed in 2015.

The plan, already informally agreed with European Union ministers, also calls for the introduction of more reliable CO2 emission testing methods. MEPs have pointed to loopholes in the current environmental performance test protocol, which they say manufacturers have exploited to produce consumption and emission figures that are almost impossible to achieve under normal daily driving conditions.

MEPs want to have the current protocol replaced as soon as possible by the new World Light Duty Test Procedure (WLTP), defined by the United Nations.