Strasbourg, France - The European Union is set to require road testing from 2017 to help evaluate diesel car emissions, after the bloc's parliament on Wednesday refused to reject the proposed approach despite concerns that it is too weak.
Road testing is seen as crucial to complement laboratory tests that have been at the heart of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. But the road testing system proposed for the EU had been criticized by environmental groups as pandering to the car industry.
The European Parliament's environmental committee had rejected the plans, but the full legislature declined to follow suit on Wednesday. Only 317 lawmakers voted against the measure, falling short of the 376-vote veto threshold.
“We have avoided uncertainties, because industry now has strict but sustainable deadlines to meet,” said Giovanni La Via, the chairman of the environmental committee.
A MAJOR CHALLENGE
“Automobile manufacturers welcome the much-needed clarity,” added Erik Jonnaert, the secretary general of the European automobile manufacturers' association. But he also noted that the new rules will be “a major challenge” for the car industry.
New versions of diesel cars will have to be tested for nitrogen oxide levels on the road as well as in the lab from September 2017 in order to receive EU market authorization.
“By better reflecting the actual level of emissions in real driving conditions, these tests will reduce the net amount of air pollution emitted by diesel cars,” European Commission spokeswoman Lucia Caudet said.
“As the portable emissions measurement technology improves, we will continue tightening the screws,” she added.
But critics had argued that the proposed approach would increase the permitted level of nitrogen oxides - pollutants that can cause lung cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Some leeway has been built into the on-road testing to give manufacturers time to adjust to the new rules and to allow in part for a margin of error.
Green EU parliamentarian Bas Eickhout, however, spoke of “a failure to act on the silent killer that is air pollution.”DPA