Europe

MEPs urge tougher EU stance on diesel emissions

Diesel exhaust fumes - file pic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The EU is divided over the transition period to tighter exhaust standards

The European Parliament's environment committee has rejected new EU standards for diesel car emissions, arguing that they are not strict enough.

The standards agreed by EU governments in October would allow diesel cars to continue exceeding the maximum level set by laboratory tests.

From September 2017 new models would be able to emit double that maximum. The EU Commission says actual emissions are currently five times the limit.

MEPs can force changes to the rules.

The scandal over Volkswagen diesel emissions prompted the EU to reassess its testing procedures. The plan is to introduce new real driving emissions (RDE) tests from 1 September 2017. Such tests are considered far more accurate than the current lab tests.

Diesel engines emit higher levels of nitrogen oxide and dioxide (NOx) than petrol engines - pollutants that cause respiratory ailments, especially in congested cities.

VW cheating

In September, US regulators found some VW diesel cars had a "defeat device" - or software - to cheat emissions tests.

The cheating has an impact on up to 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide. It has cost VW more than €6bn (£4.5bn; $7bn) to fix - the firm's biggest ever scandal.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Diesel emissions are under scrutiny after VW software was found to have tricked test equipment

According to the Commission, tighter diesel emission standards must be phased in gradually because of "technical limits" in measuring the emissions in real driving conditions, rather than in the laboratory.

The plan is to make the NOx emission limit 168mg per kilometre for new cars from September 2017 - compared with the current regulatory limit of 80mg/km. Then from January 2020 the limit will reduce to 120mg/km.

The Commission stresses that the current real NOx emissions from diesel cars are about 400mg/km.

From 1 September 2017 all new cars will have to pass a real driving emissions test before going on sale.

"The EU is the first and only region in the world to mandate robust testing methods," said Lucia Caudet, a Commission spokesperson.

But the MEPs passed a resolution on Monday opposing the Commission's deal with EU governments on emissions. In January the matter will go to the full parliament for a vote.

"The technology to reduce deadly emissions is already available; we should not have to wait another decade for legal limits to be met," said British Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder.

And Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout of the Greens said that adopting the current proposal "would seriously damage the credibility of the EU to regulate the car industry".

If MEPs still vote no to the proposal in January it will have to be amended by the Commission and renegotiated with the 28 member state governments.

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