Brow-beaten Parliament agrees to double pollutant emissions from diesel cars

The European Parliament today caved in to pressure from car-producing countries and agreed to weaken the limits for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from new diesel cars. The effective new ‘Euro 6’ limit, 168mg of NOx per km, is more than double that agreed in 2007 (80mg/km). From 2020, all new cars will still be allowed to emit 120mg/km. Transport & Environment (T&E) is disappointed with the decision, which will undermine efforts to clean up Europe’s air and improve public health.

Greg Archer, clean vehicles director of T&E, said: “It’s disgraceful that the most powerful countries in Europe think that keeping dirty diesel is good for their car industry while citizens are poisoned. The European Commission and progressive members of the European Parliament have fought tooth and nail to prevent a bad outcome but this wasn’t sufficient to counter the pressure from EU national governments.”

Despite public outcry, EU governments have pressured national MEPs to accept the weakening of the legal limits that was agreed via the backdoor of comitology in October of last year.

The Commission and member states’ decision exceeds the powers of implementing legislation and is therefore illegal. Implementing legislation can only take uncertainty in the testing procedure into account when revising limits. The Commission, following analysis by its Joint Research Centre, stated the testing uncertainty was 20%. The political decision to raise the limit to 50%, and more in the short term, therefore goes beyond the powers provided in the Euro 6 regulations.

“There’s only one way out of this scandal and that is to have an early review of the flexibility in the new test (conformity factors) in 2017 and ensure all diesels meet the Euro 6 rules on the road by 2021 at the latest. Until that happens, no one will consider diesel cars clean and cities may be forced to ban them to comply with EU air quality standards,” Greg Archer concluded.

Emissions from diesel cars are responsible for the widespread exceedances of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits across Europe and cause 72,000 premature deaths each year.

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