In parliament

24th November 2015


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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Transport ,
  • Politics & Economics ,
  • EU

Author

Eddie Orchard

The UK voted to weaken new EU NOx emissions tests, Catherine Bearder reveals.

The widespread use of defeat devices by Volkswagen has led to thousands more tonnes of deadly pollution being emitted. This is a wake-up call to us all. We have to fix the much broader problem of diesel emissions in our towns and cities. A recent government study found that nitrogen oxides (NOx), largely emitted by diesel vehicles, are responsible for 23,500 early deaths in the UK each year. This is a public health crisis on a massive scale that has been ignored for far too long.

Yet, at a technical meeting at the end of October, EU governments agreed to double the legal limit for diesel emissions for the new, stricter testing regime that will come into force in 2017. The point of the proposed real driving emissions (RDE) tests is to reflect actual emissions on the road and prevent carmakers optimising conditions in laboratory tests. This should preclude the absurd situation in which some diesel cars emit up to six times more pollution than the legal limit when on the road but can still pass tests in the lab.

But, although the new tests should lead to an overall reduction in diesel emissions, cars will still be permitted to belch out twice the amount of pollutants they were supposed to under current limits. Worse, the stricter tests will not apply to all cars until 2019, and even from 2021 diesel cars will be able to emit 50% more NOx than under current rules. The car industry has known since 2007 that this more exacting testing regime was on the way. The technology to reduce diesel emissions is available and affordable.

The technical committee's decision was taken behind closed doors. I put in a freedom of information request to clarify what position the UK had taken. The reply was remarkably candid, admitting that the UK government had voted in favour of delaying and watering down these new tests to cut deadly diesel emissions.

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