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19th Feb 2017

Investigation

Car industry dominates emissions rule-making body

The technical working group where new rules are being made to measure emissions on the road is dominated by the car industry, while only a handful of member states showed up during recent meetings.

EUobserver has seen a list of participants of three meetings of the working group.

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More than half of the participants worked for automotive companies or a lobbying organisation representing carmakers' interests.

The group, known as the RDE-LDV working group, was set up in 2011 by the EU commission to develop a real driving emissions (RDE) test for passenger cars, or light-duty vehicles (LDV).

It was in the RDE-LDV working group where the test was developed to measure nitrogen oxides (NOx) in cars on the road instead of in the laboratory. These discussions were heavily delayed.

The working group is now developing a similar test to check particle emissions.

Last month, EUobserver reported that according to one attendance list of a meeting in 2011, 12 of the 28 participants were employed by carmakers, and five worked for automotive suppliers – in other words 60 percent of those around the table represented the car industry.

In the three meetings in 2016, this share is roughly the same: between 57 and 63 percent of participants represented the car industry.

At one meeting, the Brussels-based lobby group European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (Acea) had seven people in the room. At another, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association sent a five-person delegation.

The total number of participants was just under 50.

Participation from national governments is small.

At a May 2016 meeting, only representatives from the UK, Spain and the Netherlands were present. A month later, a colleague from Denmark joined them.

At the September meeting, there were also government representatives from Germany and two from France, bringing the total number of member states involved in the technical drafting of the legislation to six of 28.

The meetings were also attended by up to four civil servants from the European Commission, and one or two scientists from the commission's in-house science body, the Joint Research Centre.

NGOs

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were absent in the first of the three mentioned meetings.

Environmentalist lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E) was present during the next two meetings, and was joined the last time by the non-profit International Council on Clean Transportation.

When the lack of member state involvement and heavy representation of industry was mentioned during a meeting of the European Parliament's environment committee, the EU commission acknowledged that “industry is represented in high numbers”.

“But everyone is allowed to join,” said Joanna Szychowska, head of unit for automotive and mobility industries, at the commission's industry directorate-general.

She told MEPs on Monday (7 November) that NGOs “are more than welcome” and that there could be “50 NGOs” if they wanted.

“We are inviting anyone, but we cannot force people to come,” said Szychowska.

Member states 'are involved'

She also stressed that member states “are involved”, because the proposed rules are also discussed in another working group, the Technical Committee Motor Vehicles. This group is only open to member states, and it is where the final political decision to adopt legislation takes place.

Szychowska noted that member states present at the RDE-LDV working group “are those who are particularly interested in the rules”.

Bias by numbers

NGOs do not always have the resources to show up in the same numbers of the industry does, according to a testimony given in the European Parliament's Dieselgate inquiry committee last July. And that has an effect on how the debate is held.

“In Brussels, we have often – especially in the past – been unable even to follow certain meetings and procedures, and even now there are groups that we just skip because there are just no resources,” said Jos Dings, executive director of environmental group T&E.

“Even if we can make it, imagine yourself in a room with 20 people when you are the only green person arguing for the environment and there are a couple of member state representatives and a few people from the commission but the rest are all automotive experts and they take turns to making their arguments.”

“If you want to counterbalance that you need to speak 10 times as much as they do, which is socially completely unacceptable. So you get a natural bias by numbers in this,” said Dings.

How the car industry won the EU's trust

Car companies are allowed to do carry out some testing of their own products thanks to some little-noticed legislation inspired by an industry-backed report.

Dieselgate: MEPs want to give EU more testing powers

EU Commission should have power to veto national car testing programmes, MEPs in lead committee agreed. Meanwhile EU commissioner Bienkowska says member states have learned little from emissions crisis.

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