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Car CO2 cuts beating expectations

Car makers are cutting their fleets' carbon dioxide emissions faster than expected, environmental activists have said.

That means they are likely to reach European Union pollution targets ahead of time.

A new study said cars sold in the EU in 2009 on average emitted 5.1% less C02 than cars sold in 2008.

Brussels-based Transportation&Environment said that is the steepest annual reduction in emissions since the EU started collecting data 10 years ago.

Japanese manufacturer Toyota cut emissions by 10%, faster than any other car maker.

Car makers face EU fines if, by 2015, they fail to cut their fleets' average CO2 emissions by 35% from 1995 levels.

CO2, like other greenhouse gases, has been linked to global warming and the EU has committed itself to cut its total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 8% between 2008 and 2012. The European Environment Agency estimates that cars are responsible for about 14% of the EU's total CO2 emissions.

There are two main reasons for last year's record reduction, said Transportation&Environment.

The economic crisis - together with cash incentives to scrap old vehicles and replace them with newer ones in many EU member states - lifted demand for cheaper and smaller, and thus usually more fuel-efficient, cars.

However, the report said, better technology was responsible for more than half of the cut in emissions, suggesting that the 2009 figures shouldn't have come as a big surprise for the car industry.

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