EU caves in to auto industry pressure for weak emissions limits
NOx emissions from diesel vehicles can cause emphysema, bronchitis, heart disease and asthma. Photograph: Alexander Ruesche/EPA
Green MEPs describe newly minted test procedure, which will allow car manufactures to emit more than twice legal limit of NOx, as scandalous
Carmakers have won delays to a more stringent “real driving emissions” test, which will allow them to belch out more than twice the legal limit of deadly nitrogen oxides (NOx) from 2019 and up to 50% more from 2021.
The introduction of the tests has been delayed by a year by the European commission.
Revelations about Volkswagen’s use of “defeat devices” to manipulate current NOx tests and studies showing that just one in 10 cars meets current limits, appear to have had little effect on the voting.
Only the Netherlands opposed the proposal, which passed after heavy lobbying from the car industry and EU countries such as the UK, Germany, France and Spain, which are currently facing court action from the EU for failing to meet NO2 standards.
The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) welcomed the decision by a Brussels technical committee as a “robust but realistic package that will address the key environmental issues under a two-step approach”.
The industry argues that the exemptions – known as conformity factors – were needed to prevent earnings shortfalls, and to reflect testing uncertainties. But MEPs and campaigners were shocked at what they saw as a cave-in by the European commission. “For carmaking countries, it’s like dieselgate never happened,” said Greg Archer, the clean vehicles manager at the environmental thinktank Transport and Environment.
“This is a disgraceful stitch-up by national governments, who are once again putting the interests of carmakers ahead of public health,” said the Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder.
NOx emissions can cause emphysema, bronchitis, heart disease and asthma. The government says NO2 is responsible for 23,500 premature deaths a year.
The International Council on Clean Transport, which uncovered the diesel emissions scandal, says that technologies to control both CO2 and NOx emissions from diesel cars already exist and are being deployed by some car manufacturers. But “a high conformity factor is indicative of poor emissions performance,” a paper by the group said last month.
If the tests used a factor of two, it would be “the first time that the Euro standards will be changed to raise an emission limit instead of lowering it,” the study said. The EU has chosen factors of 2.1 for 2019 and 1.5 for 2021.
The ICCT study added that emissions would anyway be considerably higher than indicated because the new test would not count emissions from cold-starts.
Green MEPs described the newly minted test procedure as scandalous and pledged to use all legal avenues to block it.
“This new test is being marketed as a ‘real driving emissions’ test but it is a sham,” said Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout. “It is instead a gift to car manufacturers who have made no effort to meet the EU’s car pollution rules. Governments are not only keeping their heads in the sand with regard to the ongoing car emissions scandal, but are also willing to ignore the major and growing public health problems linked to air pollution.”
The Guardian 28-10-2015