EU Commission taken to court over new emissions tests for vehicles

New EU rules for car emissions tests will allow car manufacturers to keep their emissions control systems secret from the public. [Gubin Yury/Shutterstock]

Environmental group ClientEarth has taken legal action against the European Commission’s new rules for car emissions tests, which will allow manufacturers to keep their emissions control systems secret and, according to the group, could cause another Dieselgate-type scandal.

ClientEarth said on Monday (9 October) it was “seeking legal standing in the Court of Justice of the EU”. A successful challenge would make this the first case ever to be allowed before EU judges by an NGO and would pave the way for more environmental challenges against the EU and its institutions, it said.

Tougher and more realistic emissions tests for cars and vans took effect in the EU on 1 September.

Tougher car emission tests start in EU, welcomed by consumers

Tougher and more realistic emissions tests for cars and vans take effect in the EU on Friday (1 September), a measure welcomed by the auto industry and consumer groups, coming on the heels of the Dieselgate scandal that shook the bloc, particularly Germany.

A new laboratory test, called WLTP, introduced more realistic testing conditions for measuring pollutant and CO2 emissions, which should provide a more accurate basis for measuring a vehicle’s fuel consumption and emissions.

A second new test to measure emissions on the road – known as the real driving emissions (RDE) test – also came into force on 1 September.

The regulation requires car manufacturers to explain what effect any calibration of the emission control system has on emissions to Type Approval Authorities, the national authorities in member states that grant technical approval for vehicles to go to market.

However, ClientEarth said, the rules allow this information “to remain a secret between the manufacturer and the same discredited authorities which in the past have systematically failed to investigate excessive emissions and to enforce EU emissions rules.

“The public will be in the dark about emissions which have significant effects on their health.”

It said the confidentiality built into the regulation violated transparency provisions under the Aarhus Convention and could lead to a repeat of the Dieselgate scandal, which shook Germany and the rest of the EU in 2015.

“To avoid a new Dieselgate, tackle the widespread emission tampering practices and put an end to their detrimental and unacceptable health impacts across Europe, we need transparency, not tests carried out by discredited authorities and reckless manufacturers behind closed doors,” ClientEarth clean air lawyer Ugo Taddei said.

Dieselgate scandal still fuming in Europe, more action needed

Europe has not yet reached the bottom of the Dieselgate scandal as “many other brands” besides Volkswagen show too high emissions in real driving conditions, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska warned in a letter to the 28 member states’ transport ministers.