Friday

19th Apr 2019

Paris, Brussels, Madrid challenge new car emission limits

  • Traffic in Madrid. According to the Spanish capital, the EU should not have given car companies extra leeway on emission limits (Photo: Mallol)

The cities of Brussels, Madrid, and Paris will face off against the European Commission on Thursday (17 May), as they seek to annul the EU legislation that eased car emission limits.

The three cities all suffer from high levels of dangerous nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, caused in part by diesel vehicles.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • "The citizens of Paris and cities around the world demand clean air to breathe," said Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris. (Photo: Joe deSousa)

In front of the Court of Justice of the EU they will contest the new Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test – not because of its increased accuracy in measuring emissions, but because its introduction was accompanied by an easing of permitted levels.

However, ultimately their effort could result in the legal basis for the test being entirely derailed – creating a legal vacuum.

The RDE test was introduced in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal, which saw diesel cars being approved which were 'clean' during the laboratory test, but actually emitted much more pollutants in daily on-road use.

But while the new test measures NOx emissions more accurately, carmakers were given more leeway to pass it.

Under the previous test, national authorities were only allowed to certify cars for the market if their NOx emissions remained below 80 milligrammes per driven kilometre (mg/km).

In October 2015 however, EU member states decided to allow a limit of 168 mg/km until 2020 under the new test – a result of heavy lobbying by the car industry.

"The citizens of Paris and cities around the world demand clean air to breathe," said Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, in a statement published on Tuesday.

"It would be a betrayal of the people of Europe that car manufacturers and industrial lobbies can dictate the rules that regulate some of their most polluting products. … We need the European Union to support us, not give regulatory protection to air pollution," added Hidalgo.

The three capitals' basic argument is legalistic: they argue that the European Commission did not have the legal authority to make the decision.

The procedure used to introduce the RDE test was the comitology method, which mostly excludes the European Parliament.

The original NOx emissions limits were adopted in the so-called 'co-decision procedure' – in which the European Parliament has equal footing with the Council of the EU, where member states meet.

In an internal paper dated 16 June 2015, the commission itself questioned the legality of its move to introduce such a transition period for the car industry.

The note, written by Daniel Calleja, director-general at the commission's internal market and industry department at the time, has been seen by EUobserver.

It said introducing the RDE test in two phases, whereby during the first phase the EU would be less strict, would conflict with the legislation on the so-called Euro 6 emissions standards already in place.

Calleja wrote in 2015 that an "appropriate legal justification" for relaxing the emissions standards during a transition phase "still need[ed] to be developed".

On the other hand, it could also be argued that the parliament did have an opportunity to voice opposition to the new regulation.

In February 2016, MEPs were given the opportunity to veto the bill – which they did not.

Another reason for not annulling the RDE regulation would be that it would thus create a legal vacuum.

The RDE test has been mandatory for carmakers seeking approval to sell their cars in the EU since September 2017.

It is unclear what would happen if the test's legal basis suddenly ceased to exist.

Investigation

EU to spend €1.6 million on car emissions tests

The budget was requested by MEPs. The organisation that uncovered Volkswagen's cheating says 'Dieselgate' showed the importance of funding of 'third-party' testing.

NGO testing omitted from new Dieselgate legislation

It was independent organisations that flagged up Volkswagen's emissions scandal in the US - yet a legal clause giving such 'third parties' a role in EU emissions testing has been removed from bill.

Single EU railway signalling system faces delays

'A reality check shows that we are already falling a little bit behind in the first few years,' said the new coordinator for the European rail traffic management system (ERTMS).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us