• Governments double and delay air pollution limits for diesel cars

    EU governments have agreed to new limits for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars that are double the ‘Euro 6’ levels agreed back in 2007. They have also delayed the implementation of new limits for all new cars until 2019. From 2021, all new cars will still be allowed to emit 50% more NOx than the Euro 6 limit of 80mg/km.

    The decision was taken today by national experts in the Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles (TCMV) after the European Commission unexpectedly agreed to substantially weaken its proposals. TCMV is supposed to agree only technical changes to regulations.

    Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at Transport & Environment, said: “Citizens will wonder why their governments would rather help carmakers that cheat emissions tests than give them clean air to breathe. This disgraceful and legally questionable decision must be rejected by the European Parliament. It seems governments would rather citizens die as a result of diesel exhaust emissions than require carmakers to fit technology typically costing €100.”

    Changing EU air pollution legislation by this closed-door ‘comitology’ process is highly questionable legally. The Commission has argued that uncertainties in the testing method justify setting a higher long-term limit but this is likely to be legally challenged. The decision will also be scrutinised by the European Parliament that could reject the proposed limits as going beyond the powers of the Commission and member states.

    Earlier this year the Commission started infringement procedures against the UK, Germany, France and Spain, for failing to meet NO2 standards. Yet these governments, plus those of Italy, Romania and Sweden among others, pushed for the Commission to weaken its proposals. It is now unclear how the countries will meet the required air pollution limits. Failure to do so may result in substantial fines. Only the Netherlands voted for stronger limits.

    Greg Archer added: “For carmaking countries Dieselgate has never happened. Nitrogen dioxide pollution, mainly from diesel cars, causes premature deaths, asthma and birth abnormalities. It is shocking that governments are so keen to please carmakers and ignore the health effects of this invisible killer of over half a million citizens annually.”