The European Parliament did not veto a regulation allowing carmakers to largely exceed emission levels for diesel vehicles in exchange for setting-up of new tests in real driving conditions.

The European Parliament eventually decided on Wednesday (February 3) not to veto the European Commission’s draft proposal on new testing rules for diesel cars, known as Real Driving Emissions (RDE) tests.

This regulations approved in October 2015 gives a green card to carmakers for exceeding emissions of nitrogin oxydes (NOx).

By a small majority, the members of European Parliament (MEPs) rejected the proposal made by the environment committee to veto the regulation: 323 voted against the rejection and 317 backed it.

The veto would have succeeded only with an absolute majority of at least 376 MEPs of the 751 in total.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Associations (ACEA) reacted positively to the vote, but underlined firstly that the “more stringent testing standards will be extremely difficult to reach in a short space of time.”

On October 28, the EU executive and EU member states representatives agreed behind closed doors, known as ‘comitology procedure’, on new EU emissions rules under which carmakers will be able to raise diesel car emission limits regarding NOx by up to 110 percent between 2017 and 2020 and then by 50 percent beyond that.

Bas Eickhout, Dutch MEP for the Greens, stated after the result that “the vote confirms this license to pollute for European carmakers”.

Eickhout also explained that the automobile industry has already been aware of the emission limits for many years.

“For nine years the car industry knows where they go to. They also know since 2007 that new tests would come, because we all know that laboratory tests are not delivering and that they should be on the streets, in real conditions. And now what we do is ‘ok, we improve the tests, but then we allowed them to emit more in a technical committee and in a very dodgy process’. So, what we are doing is legalizing just more pollution than we agreed in 2007,” Eickhout explained.

The European Commission welcomed the result and stated that “by better reflecting the actual level of emissions in real driving conditions, these tests will reduce the net amount of air pollution emitted by diesel cars.”

The centre-right and the right-wing parties in the European Parliament supported the EU Commission’s proposal.

According to Krišjānis Kariņš, Latvian member of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), whereas the proposed package is not perfect, this is a good compromise for the environment.

“If this suggestion by the Commission would have been rejected, it would mean that actually the auto industry would have to do nothing. I don’t think anyone believe it is perfect, but in light of how bad the situation is, because the problem is that the emissions on the road compared to laboratories emission are about four times on average worst,” Kariņš said.

EU lawmakers back carmaker friendly regulation - U Talking to Me?

EU Commission exceeding its power

On Monday, in an opinion letter send to Giovanni La Via, Italian chair of the environment committee of the Parliament, the Legal Affairs committee (JURI) estimated that the European Commission cannot amend the emission limit values already approved in a 2007 law.

The JURI committee reckons that the introduction of “conformity factors” in the draft Commission regulation “at a level which would result in a de facto blanket derogation from the applicable emissions limits” (…) set out in the 2007 regulation run counter the aims and content of that regulation.”

Consequently, the chair of the JURI committee, Pavel Svoboda, wrote that the draft Commission regulation “should be considered ultra vires as exceeding the empowerment” of the Commission.

In clear terms: The Brussels executive has gone over its power which is only to “supplement” the regulation and “not to amend” the emission limit values in a way it “should be considered as an essential element” of the law.

“It took four years for the Commission, between 2007 and 2011, to come to a conclusion that a new test might be needed, and already in 2007 we were asking for it. The Commission has acted slowly during the entire period of time, and there you see that the EU Commission, well at least, has been very complacent, that is why we have an enquiry committee. But until now, the conclusion is that the EU Commission has been complacent and helpful to the car industry,” Eickhout stressed.

Regarding the enquiry committee, the different political groups have not managed to agree on the designation of its chair and co-chairs, which was expected to be have been done on February 1.

The vote on the nominations has been postponed in two weeks and the environment committee will hold a public hearing on the RDE procedure on February 23.

  • Author: Laeticia Markakis, Euranet Plus News Agency

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