3rd February 2016

Real driving emissions package passes the EP test

Car emissions have been a big topic since the Volkswagen revelations in the US. Even before then, however, the European Commission worked to reform the current EU system of car emissions measurements. As of today, cars are tested in laboratory conditions, often with unrealistic, yet legal, modifications (e.g. removed side-mirrors for less drag). A new system of measurements in real-world conditions has been proposed. However, if cars currently on the market, all of which nominally passed the laboratory emissions tests, were to go through real-world emissions tests, the results would be 4 or 5 times higher than the limit. That is why the EC proposed temporary measures for manufacturers – to give them enough time to adapt to new test schemes. This measure had a form of an implementing act of the EC, which was approved by a committee of national experts (under the so-called comitology procedure) last October. As such, it does not need to win approval of the co-legislators. However, both the EP and the Council can veto it. The EP proved to be the crucial institution – its Environment Committee proposed to object to the implementing act, thus effectively vetoing it. The argument was lack of ambition. In fact, even today car manufacturers should respect agreed limits. That the cars emit 4 to 5 times more emissions constitutes an illegal situation, strictly speaking. The implementing act in fact legalizes it, in a way. Tense negotiations took place between the EP and the EC. The EC promised to toughen the rules in the future, as well as to propose a bigger overhaul of emissions testing rules. Following these EC pledges, the EP plenary rejected, on 3 February, the Environment Committee´s proposal to veto the implementing act – although by a thin margin of 323 against versus 317 for, with 61 abstentions.

Pursuant to the new implementing act, carmakers will be allowed to surpass the limits under real-world testing conditions by 110% (that is the cars will be allowed to emit 2.1-times more than legal limit) as of September 2017 for new models, and for new cars of already approved models as of September 2019. Since January 2020 (2021 for new cars of existing models), the limits will be allowed to be surpassed by 50%. This is seen as a grace period for carmakers, an extremely important industry in Europe.

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Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic