European Union states are pushing for cars to be allowed to be more polluting in the run-up to the ban on petrol and diesel models.
Spain proposed a delay to planned EU regulation that will limit vehicle emissions amid calls from carmakers to shelve the laws entirely.
European manufacturers had complained their introduction would have diverted efforts away from electric vehicle production.
The discussion came as Rishi Sunak announced a delay on the ban of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
France, Italy and the Czech Republic are among a group of EU nations calling the new emissions limits to be weakened before the fuel ban enters into force.
The limits were introduced in 1992 as the so-called “Euro 1”, while the “Euro 7” package was proposed by the European Commission in November last year.
The draft proposal drawn up by Spain, the holder of the bloc’s rotating presidency, said numerous countries had requested to water down the rules, without naming them.
“These delegations took the view that the relationship between investment costs and environmental benefits arising from the proposed regulation would be disproportionate,” the text said.
“They expressed concerns about significant development capacity and investment required on top of that already being put into electrification, and overall benefits to be gained from the proposed approach.”
Under the Spanish plan, the implementation dates of mid-2025 for cars and mid-2027 for trucks would be pushed back.
Carmakers would now only have to comply 24 months after the regulation enters into force, with 48 months permitted for buses and trucks over 3.5 tonnes.
‘Condemn people to avoidable illness’
Transport campaigners said the EU had “caved into automakers’ threats … condemning people to avoidable ill health and premature death for decades to come”.
“In this new proposal by the Spanish Presidency, emission limits for cars have been weakened. No change in emission limits for cars and vans compared to Euro 6, even for diesel which is allowed to emit more NOx (nitrous oxide) pollution than petrol,” the campaigners added.
It came as the EU agreed to ban environmental claims such as “climate neutral” or “eco” on products by 2026, unless firms can prove their claims are accurate.
The shift would make the EU the toughest region in the world in terms of crackdowns on the greenwashing of consumer products.