EU Parliament votes to dilute new ‘Euro 7’ vehicle pollution limits
Lawmakers in the European Parliament adopted their position on new pollution standards for road vehicles on Thursday (9 November), in a move seen as a win for conservative lawmakers who sought to limit costs for the car industry.
The amended text of the so-called “Euro 7” regulation was adopted at plenary with 329 votes in favour, 230 against and 41 abstentions, clearing the way for negotiations with national governments to finalise the law.
The Euro 7 regulation is the latest in a series of standards that set permissible levels of air pollution from cars, vans, buses and trucks in a bid to improve air quality.
For the first time, in addition to tailpipe emissions such as particulates and nitrogen oxides, the regulation will cover microplastics from tyres and particles from brakes – two sources of vehicle pollution that will continue after the switch to electric mobility.
MEPs voted for the EU to align its method for calculating tyre and brake emissions and abrasion limits with those being developed at the UN level.
Despite calls from socialist and green MEPs to strengthen the pollution emission standards for passenger cars, lawmakers ultimately backed levels in line with the Commission’s original proposal.
In the run-up to the vote, progressive MEPs put a strong emphasis on the need to protect health, arguing that failing to further curtail pollutants from vehicles would lead to 70,000 premature deaths annually from poor air quality.
But conservative and liberal lawmakers were wary of forcing companies to significantly retool combustion engine vehicles, arguing that this would push up the cost of new cars for consumers and drain resources that could be better spent on preparing for the electric transition.
The Parliament did, however, agree to stricter limits on exhaust emissions measured in laboratory settings, and in real driving conditions for buses and heavy-duty vehicles. The new rules will also require batteries used in EVs to meet certain durability standards.
Alexandr Vondra, a Czech lawmaker with the nationalist ECR group who is the Parliament’s lead speaker on the proposal, said that the text strikes a balance between “environmental goals and the vital interests of manufacturers”.
“It would be counterproductive to implement environmental policies that harm both Europe’s industry and its citizens. Through our compromise, we serve the interests of all parties involved and steer clear of extreme positions,” he said.
Bas Eickhout, a Dutch MEP with the Greens, blasted the Parliament’s position as “incomprehensible”.
“Under heavy pressure from the car industry, conservative parties have weakened the standards, so that they barely improve compared to the current rules,” he said in a statement. “They are playing with the health of millions of Europeans and getting away with it.”
Despite green politicians presenting the vote as a victory for the car industry, automakers’ lobby group ACEA struck a less celebratory tone.
ACEA acknowledged that the Parliament adopted what they called “a more realistic approach to Euro 7 compared to what the European Commission put forward last year” but said the regulation “still comes with a heavy price tag”.
“The fact remains that Euro 7 represents a significant investment for vehicle manufacturers, on top of their huge decarbonisation efforts,” said ACEA Director General, Sigrid de Vries. “It also comes in an extraordinarily challenging geopolitical and economic context, marked by soaring energy prices, supply chain shortages, inflationary pressures, and lagging consumer demand.”
Green campaigners meanwhile took a hard line against the Parliament’s position.
Clean mobility NGO Transport & Environment branded it “worse than useless”, arguing that the updated law should be renamed “Euro 6F” as it does little to improve upon its predecessor.
“Car companies will use [Euro 7] to greenwash cars that are hardly any cleaner than today,” said Anna Krajinska, vehicle emissions and air quality manager at T&E. “Lawmakers should have the decency to rename it Euro 6F or withdraw it.”
City network Eurocities said the vote showed “the interests of the automotive industry prevailed over concerns for those who are deeply affected by air pollution”, adding that the Parliament is making cutting air pollution in cities “more and more difficult”.
Consumer advocacy organisation BEUC said the Parliament’s position is akin to “a minor update of Euro 6”, though praised some aspects, such as the proposal for an ‘environmental vehicle passport’ which would set out each car’s lifetime fuel or electricity consumption, as well as repairs carried out and in-service checks.
Natacha Tullis of Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit organisation, criticised the decision to tie the tyre abrasion limits for heavy-duty vehicles to the UN methodology, warning that this could leave truck tyres unregulated until 2035.
“Given that tyres are the second-largest quantified source of microplastic pollution in Europe, yesterday’s decision by the European Parliament jeopardises the EU’s target of reducing microplastic pollution by 30% by 2030,” she said.
Tullis called on policymakers to alter the text during trilogue negotiations to allow Europe to act independently on tyre microplastics.
Sean Goulding Carroll, EurActiv.com
This article first appeared on EurActiv.com, an edie content partner
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