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MEPs approve watered-down car emissions, after Renew U-turn

  • MEPs backed a text that keeps passenger car exhaust pollutants at the current level (Photo: Andreas Christen)
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MEPs in the environment committee approved new emissions rules for cars on Thursday (12 October), with the final text weaker than the EU Commission initially had intended.

The so-called Euro 7 emissions standards, planned and researched since 2018, and the recently agreed regulation for CO2 standards for cars and vans, were meant to ensure cleaner vehicles on our roads and lower toxic emissions from exhaust pipes.

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Stricter norms now apply to particle emissions stemming from brake pads and tyres. And a 60-percent reduction requirement of toxic NOx emissions for heavy-duty vehicles was also included.

But stricter exhaust limits for passenger cars, which formed the heart of the initial commission proposal, didn't make it, following a last-minute U-turn from the liberal Renew Europe group, who backed a text that keeps passenger car pollutants at the current level.

An amendment to include so-called e-fuels in the text was also rejected.

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and the rightwing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) had always opposed a further tightening of consumer vehicle pollution standards, but it was unclear until today what way the ball would drop.

The centre-left Socialists & Democrats group (S&D) and the Greens had pushed for stricter rules for passenger cars, arguing that these cars would be on the road for decades. But this effort was blocked on Thursday when Renew sided with the conservatives.

"For Renew Europe, the horizon is clear: we are committed to supporting the Green Deal," said Renew shadow rapporteur Susana Solís Pérez on Thursday, but added that by 2030 "most cars" sold on the market will be zero-emission electric vehicles.

Therefore, Renew thinking goes, it makes more sense to focus on trucks and tyre particle emissions, which will continue to be released by electric vehicles.

But according to Green MEP Michael Bloss, parliament "has dropped the ball on protecting people's health and making the European automotive industry future-proof."

"The future belongs to brands that fuse environment and technology," he said, pointing out that "even Bosch, the world's largest auto supplier," has been lobbying for stricter limits.

But car manufacturers have pushed back hard against stricter emission regulations for passenger cars, arguing extra costs would put them at a disadvantage in fending off growing competition from US and Chinese-made electric vehicles.

BMW boss Oliver Zipse previously described the implementation of the stricter Euro 7 rules as "entirely unfeasible."

But the European NGO Transport & Environment recently rejected that argument and pointed out that Europe's five biggest car makers, which includes BMW, made over €64bn euros and paid out €27bn to their shareholders. "Profits matter more to them than the health of Europeans," the NGO said in a video posted on Twitter on Thursday.

"The text urgently needs a makeover in the negotiations between Council and Parliament," said Bloss.

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