Updated response to the EU’s Auto-Oil Programme

December 27, 1997

The attempts to control traffic pollution at a European level have over the past 25 years focused on technical standards for new vehicles. The latest revision of these standards have reached the second stage of the adoption process which translates proposals of the Commission into Directives of the European Union.

These proposals mark, however, a new approach in this area of European policy. They are based on a comprehensive assessment of both the extent of the environmental requirement for action, and the least cost solutions to achieve the targeted environmental objectives : the Auto Oil Programme. The result was a Communication from the Commission outlining a future strategy to control traffic emissions, accompanied by a proposal revising passenger emission standards and, for the first time, a proposal stipulating the minimum standards for petrol and diesel fuels.

Both of the key institutions guiding the adoption process, the Council and the Parliament, have given their first reasoned opinions on these proposals. The first six months of 1998 will now see to what extent Europe’s decision makers are prepared to meet the environmental objectives identified by the Auto Oil programme.

Despite the fact that the Auto Oil Programme set out to achieve rational and objective environmental goals, it is still the case that the proposals presented by the Commission fall short of complete protection for Europe’s health and environment. There are many reasons for this shortfall, and both the Parliament and the Council addressed this by increasing the stringency of the measures in the first stage of the adoption procedure.

The purpose of this short paper is to highlight the problems T&E perceive with the process thusfar, as well as to propose the changes to the two proposals which are necessary to strengthen them to a level consistent with the stated policy objective of the protection of human health and the environment via a rational approach.


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