European Parliament votes to end dirty diesel’s licence to pollute

News from Brussels

Source: Transport & Environment, 2020-09-16

The European Parliament voted on Tuesday 15 September to put an end to the “licence to pollute” carmakers managed to obtain in the midst of the Dieselgate scandal. European sustainable mobility NGO Transport & Environment welcomed this outcome and called on EU governments to support this decision in the negotiations to come with MEPs.

In 2016, carmakers managed to convince the EU Commission and Member States they were unable to comply with the legal limits for nitrogen oxides (NOx) in new on-road tests. As a result, policymakers relaxed emission limits through so called “conformity factors”. Thanks to these exemptions, cars were allowed to emit 2.1 times over the legal NOx limit of 80 mg per km (hence up to 168mg NOx/km) until the end of 2020, and 43% more (up to 114mg/km) with no set end date.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted on Tuesday 15 September out the conformity factors and want them phased out by September 2022 at the latest. Member States must agree to this in negotiations if new Euro 6 cars’ NOx emissions are to finally be within the legal limits by then. 

Alex Keynes, clean vehicles manager at Transport & Environment, said “Allowing carmakers to pollute more because their cars are polluting is like telling the police to stand down because the robbers are already in the bank. The health of thousands of Europeans is at risk because of air pollution. Carmakers have the means to meet nitrogen oxide limits in the real world, so this scandalous exemption must be stopped without further delay.”

As T&E has shown, conformity factors are neither needed nor justified: out of 307 Real Driving Emission (RDE) test results from Euro 6d-temp and 6d diesel (the most recent engines), 87% of the cars emitted below 80 mg/km of NOx. It clearly shows that off-the-shelf technology is necessary to meet the target in real-world driving conditions has long been available. New testing commissioned by the European Commission confirms these findings.

Alex Keynes added “Carmakers should invest their time and energy producing zero-emission vehicles, rather than lobbying for exemptions to continue to pollute in our streets. Member states must show the way and abolish the conformity factor as soon as possible.”

Air pollution remains Europe’s top environmental threat to health, with more than 400,000 premature deaths driven by air pollution every year in the EU. As part of the European Green Deal, the EU has set the world’s most ambitious clean air goal, a ‘zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment’.


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