European Union environment ministers meeting at the Environment Council on 8 March agreed emissions limits for all motorcycles which are tougher than the European Commission had wanted, but they rejected MEP’s calls for further, more stringent controls three years later. According to the Swedish EU Presidency, the new controls as from 2003 will lead to a 60-70% reduction in hydrocarbon emissions, thereby alleviating the most serious environmental problems with motorcycles.

Only Germany was dissatisfied with the new legislation, having wanted stronger controls than those adopted. Apart from hydrocarbons, the new legislation limits emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from all motorcycles, tricycles and quadricycles. The hydrocarbon limit for motorcycles with engine capacity above 150cc has been decreased from 1.2 grams per kilometre (g/km) to 1g/km. Member states will be also be permitted to introduce fiscal measures favouring cycles which meet the new emissions limits but there will not be legally obliged to do so.

“That we are now implementing measures to combat motorcycle emissions is very positive,” Sweden’s environment minister, Kjell Larsson, said. “Despite the fact that there are so few motorcycles in our country, these emissions still create a considerable problem and must be reduced if we are to achieve our environmental objectives. In southern Europe, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that there are so many motorcycles and we have felt intense ‘green’ pressure from some of our southern European friends.”

Larsson also justified the rejection of deciding on emission requirements for 2006. “From an environmental point of view, it would be wrong to take such a decision at this present time,” he said. “We agree that we should have new, tighter requirements in force in 2006 but as things stand now, we know too little about how these requirements should be implemented. They would have been poor from a technical point of view. If we wait a while, we will be able to implement requirements which will lead to further substantial emission reductions in the future.”

The Member States have therefore asked the Commission to draw up a proposal which will specify motorcycle emission requirements from 2006 that will be as strict as they are for new cars produced today. These requirements are likely to be adopted some time during 2003.

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