MEPs push back new EU car-pollution limits

  

The Parliament’s environment committee agreed to new rules on car pollution that will effectively delay until 2011 carmakers’ obligation to further cut emissions of harmful air pollutants from new vehicles.

The European Parliament's environment committee voted on 13 September to delay the introduction of new EU laws known as Euro 5 aimed at reining in pollution from new cars.

The original draft - tabled by the Commission in December 2005 after nearly two years of stakeholder consultation - suggested enforcing the new rules for private cars as early as mid-2008 (EurActiv 9 Jan. 2006).

But opposition from European car manufacturers, voiced in a high-level industry advisory group called CARS 21, seems to have frustrated this schedule.

Under a compromise deal struck by the committee, Euro 5 standards would start to apply a year later, as of 1 September 2009. And full compliance will only become compulsory as of January 2011.

"The wording does not specifically mention a transition period, but this is what it appears to be," a Parliament source told EurActiv.

Heavier vehicles of more than 2,500 kg will have between 1 September 2010 and 1 January 2012 to comply. This category includes mini-buses of seven or more people and light commercial vehicles.

A set of compromise amendments to the Euro 5 proposal was agreed prior to the vote by the Parliament's three main political parties, the centre-right (EPP-ED), the socialists (PES) and the liberals (ALDE) and voted in bloc.

The amendments also comprise an upward revision of emissions limits for hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) produced from vehicle exhausts which can contribute to smog formation and are harmful to human health.

Positions: 

The new schedule is in line with demands expressed by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). In a position paper last year, ACEA said "a 3 year minimum period is required for industrial development", meaning that it could plan introducing Euro 5 as from 2010 at the earliest. "Earlier pull ahead is not possible," ACEA stated. ACEA spokesperson Sigrid de Vries did not wish to comment on the report until its final approval in plenary. “We confirm our position from last year,” she said.

The Greens in Parliament reacted angrily, since they were excluded from the cross-party arrangement. The deal, said German MEP Rebecca Harms, would "stall the introduction of new cleaner technologies … until 2014 and more". 

"California and some other US States require cars to be almost twice as clean next year," Harms pointed out, adding: "The technologies to reduce NOx emissions … would also lead to fuel savings. There are clear opportunities both to improve air quality and reduce the climate impact of cars."

Moreover, she says, the deal leaves heavy polluters such as SUVs out of the system, along with other so-called 'vehicles fulfilling specific social needs'. "There is no reason why SUVs should enjoy exemptions comparable to those of ambulances," said Harms. "Those who can afford to buy them can also afford the cost of greening their gas-guzzlers."

Timeline: 
  • The cross-party deal means the dossier is likely to be voted on untouched with a comfortable majority in Parliament plenary
  • October 2006: Expected vote in Parliament plenary (October II session)
  • 1 September 2009: planned introduction of new Euro5 rules for private cars
  • 1 September 2014: planned review of the Euro 5 rules for private cars (Euro 6)
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