EU in 'Mexican standoff' over independent checks on car emissions

Leaked documents reveal EU pledge to carry out tests deleted from draft as governments come under pressure from carmakers

Plans for independent checks of how much pollution new cars emit are being killed off by EU member states, according to leaked documents seen by the Guardian.

After the Dieselgate scandal, the European commission proposed empowering its respected science wing, the Joint Research Centre, to inspect vehicles separately from national authorities, which are paid by the car manufacturers they regulate.

But an EU pledge to “organise and carry out” emissions tests has been deleted from a draft regulation, which will be discussed by EU ministers this week in Brussels.

Julia Poliscanova, a spokeswoman for the green campaign group, Transport and Environment, said: “There is a Mexican standoff going on, with governments afraid to act against their own fraudulent carmakers for fear it will put their domestic industry at a competitive disadvantage.

“This scandalous stalemate results from national governments prioritising the interests of domestic carmakers above citizens’ need to breathe clean air. National vehicle regulators in Europe have been captured by the car industry.”

Millions of polluting cars remain on European roads, despite research showing that they emit three times the current standard for nitrogen oxide pollution, when driven in real world situations. Last week, the European Environment Agency increased its estimate of premature deaths caused by air pollution in Europe each year to 467,000.

Since the VW emissions scandal broke a year ago, many VW group cars fitted with illegal software have been recalled in Europe, and 660,000 vehicles from Renault, Fiat, Opel and Mercedes could be voluntarily recalled, if their owners request it.

But no other action has been taken to fix the millions of excessively polluting vehicles on the continent’s roads, 69% of which were sold in the UK, Germany, France and Italy.

France is the only one of these countries to support independent emissions tests in meetings of the relevant EU working party, according to T&E.

Modest requirements for the EU to monitor national emissions tests and ensure that regulators are consistently applying rules have also been watered down in the draft regulations’ text.

Europe’s car regulations have historically provided a global benchmark for best emissions practice, everywhere except North America and Japan. But after the VW scandal, countries such as China have begun realigning their systems with US testing norms, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation, which first revealed the Dieselgate story.

A final decision on the new European emissions testing regime is expected in February.


Arthur Neslen

The GuardianTramp

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