• A virtuous, not vicious, circle that should start here

    Opinion By Nina Renshaw T&E Deputy-Director We had some welcome news from India earlier this month. Tyre manufacturers there are preparing to adopt the standards set in the EU regulation on tyre fuel efficiency, safety and noise, and getting ready to label their products, as that will be required for them to go on sale in the EU from 2012. Why is this welcome? Because it confirms what we have been saying for a long time – that strict standards in Europe are not a competitive disadvantage for Europe’s industry but set the pace for the rest of the world, thereby giving European companies a head start over their international competitors.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]Although the EU tyre legislation could have gone so much further, it does at least continue an improving trend. We estimate the tyre standards and labels will save 3-4% in European greenhouse gas emissions from cars, vans, lorries and buses once it comes into full effect. There aren’t many measures that are as effective across the whole fleet. Maybe that explains why interest has gone global, but more likely, countries like India and South Korea are following Europe’s lead to ensure that their products can continue to be sold around the world.

    Either way, this kind of environmental regulatory competition should be a spur for Europe to continue with stricter standards across all its sectors, in particular for long-term standards for cars and vans. Because it can work in reverse too – other countries and regions can set standards that Europe then has to match to remain competitive.

    This is happening right now. Earlier this month, the USA grabbed the initiative on heavy vehicles by proposing a regulation to cut emissions from lorries and buses by around 20% starting in 2014. The proposal, which foresees a big role for tyres with low rolling resistance, was described as ‘a win/win for the environment, business and the American consumer’ by the US transport minister. We in Europe have tended to think we are ahead of the road-focused Americans on tackling transport’s environmental impact, but if this regulation goes ahead, Europe’s businesses and consumers will be disadvantaged unless the EU matches the USA’s move.

    It is genuinely exciting that laws developed here will have a global effect, multiplying the emissions reductions when similar standards reach other parts of the world, especially the mega-markets of India and China. There are signs that these rising economies are catching on to the benefits of fuel-efficiency standards to help tackle issues such as pollution and energy poverty at home, rather than seeing such standards simply as a way of getting access to European consumers. That is a virtuous circle that should continue with future car targets, a new standard for heavy lorries and regional action on aviation and shipping.