EU accused of ‘gifting’ car industry with weak emission cuts goal

As evidence shows that one-third of VW cars with 'defeat devices' remain unfixed, EU policymakers have come under criticism for "gifting" the car industry with ineffective new regulation over low-emission vehicle uptake.

The EU Commission yesterday (8 December) released its clean mobility package which outlines a plan for new vehicles to have average CO2 emissions 30% lower in 2030 than nine years earlier.

But campaigners have complained about the absence of a penalty for failing to meet this target. It is alleged that rules were diluted at the eleventh hour after a phone conversation between President Juncker’s office and the head of the German car lobby association.

“The Commission have gifted the car industry an ineffective regulation after they came calling,” Transport & Environment clean vehicles director Greg Archer said.

“Removing the penalty for failing to meet zero-emission vehicle targets is an own goal. It amounts to handing the global leadership on electric cars to China, which will be delighted to export their models to Europe, jeopardising jobs in Europe’s auto industry.”

‘Game isn’t over’

European transport emissions have failed to fall in line with other major sectors. Indeed, an emission increase of 2.1% was recorded in 2016. The Commission’s plan requires new cars and vans to have 30% lower emissions in 2030 compared to 2021, with an interim goal of 15% for 2025.

Green groups highlight that this covers less than a third of road transport emission cuts required by 2030, and will force EU countries to undergo more difficult measures such as banning combustion cars or fuel tax hikes.

Meanwhile, proposals within the document to better monitor real-world fuel consumption are criticised by campaigners, who say the plan does not go far enough to ensure that emission cuts will no longer be delivered through flawed lab tests.

The European Council and Parliament will now go through the document and suggest amendments before a final outcome is agreed upon in early 2019.  

“The car industry may be leading at half-time but the game isn’t over,” Archer said.

“It is now down to member states and Parliament to make changes to the proposal in order to put Europe on a trajectory to clean up cars and vans and make its auto industry globally competitive. Regrettably, the Commission has failed to do either or learn from past mistakes.”

VW in a fix

One of the major car manufacturers affected by the proposals will be German brand Volskwagen (VW). Two years ago, VW was embroiled in the “dieselgate” scandal after it was found to have equipped vehicles with defeat devices that recognised when they were being tested so they could appear to be much less polluting than in reality.

VW has subsequently committed to recall all of its cars and remove the devices. But new evidence has shown that one-third of cars manufactured by BW still have not received fixes.

Figures by the Department for Transport (DfT) show that the number of fixes to VW cars has fallen from 10% to 2% of the affected cars each month. The numbers also show that rates of fixes to Skodas spiked in July and August to around double that of other brands owned by VW, an anomaly questioned by Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Chair Mary Creagh in a letter to the DfT.

“It is over two years since the VW emissions scandal was discovered, a third of vehicles have yet to be fixed and rates have slowed considerably,” Creagh said.

“It is essential that the vehicles on Britain’s roads adhere to emissions regulations, particularly as the country is faced with dangerous levels of pollution. The Department must take responsibility for ensuring that these fixes are completed as soon as possible.”

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie