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Support for tighter EU car emissions rules

January 18, 2022

T&E gauged public opinion to understand what EU citizens actually think about carmakers being obliged to limit pollution from their vehicles.

The European Commission is set to adopt its proposal on new pollutant emission standards for cars, vans, trucks and buses (Euro 7) in April 2022 revising outdated rules set more than a decade ago. This proposal will determine the amount of toxic emissions that almost 100 million new cars with an internal combustion engine (ICE) – expected to hit the road in 2025-2035 – will be allowed to emit.

The proposal is the EU’s last opportunity to tackle toxic pollution from ICE cars – the largest source of toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions – and to align rules with new World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines and avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution. A drastic reduction of hazardous pollutant emissions is technically feasible as CLOVE – a team of emission experts tasked by the European Commission – has outlined.

However, carmakers fiercely oppose any ambitious requirements that would be more than a mere cosmetic change to the existing pollutant emission limits. They claim that anything else would de facto kill off the ICE because, for example, improvements to emission control systems would make cars prohibitively expensive and people would not be willing to bear the additional cost. T&E has previously proved such claims wrong.

With that in mind T&E decided to gauge public opinion to understand what EU citizens actually think about this topic. T&E commissioned a representative Pan-European online survey with over eight thousand respondents across seven EU Member States to YouGov, a leading research data and analytics group. The main results are:

● Across all countries over three-quarters, or 76% of citizens, support the idea that car manufacturers should be legally obliged to reduce pollution from new diesel and petrol cars to the lowest levels that are technically feasible.

● Among people who intend to buy a new car nearly two-thirds (65%) said they would be willing to pay up to 500 euros more for a new car if this would significantly reduce the pollution of the car.

● Across all countries, 77% agreed that cars should meet emissions limits whenever and wherever they are driven.

Half of respondents stated that they also expect used cars to meet the minimum legal pollution limits, while only 12% said they would not.

This clearly shows that people across Europe want more ambitious pollutant emission standards for new cars which ensure the lowest possible emissions wherever and whenever a car is driven. Contrary to fear mongering spread by car makers, EU citizens are prepared to pay more for cleaner cars and the additional cost, which is less than that of a paint upgrade on an entry level model like a Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio or VW Polo, is not the dealbreaker.

Politicians need to finally listen to people’s demands for cleaner air, not carmakers’ complaints. That means the European Commission must come up with an ambitious and comprehensive proposal that matches the expectations of the population and finally tackles the toxic air across Europe. National governments and the European Parliament should then speedily adopt this into the final law.