Background information : 06-02-98
"Californian" style programme to combat pollution from road vehicles
Brussels, 6 February 1998
Qualified go-ahead for
"Californian" style programme to
combat pollution from road
A panoply of anti-pollution measures - the Auto-Oil Programme - partly
modelled on trend-setting Californian legislation and intended to clean
up road transport in Europe from the start of the next millennium
received a qualified go-ahead on 4 February from the Environment
Committee. The measures are due to be considered by the House
during the session in Strasbourg from 16 to 20 February 1998.
One of the two rapporteurs, Mr Bernd LANGE (PES,D), had summed up
the committee's stance in earlier documentation when he said:"For the
foreseeable future the car will determine our mobility. This has to be
given an environmentally friendly form." Comparisons with Californian
legislation were not unwelcome, he suggested, citing action taken under
the rules of the California Air Resources Board. Moreover, Europe's
motor industry needed clear legislation as soon as possible so that it
could plan in confidence for the next generation of motor vehicles.
The external costs of air pollution from motor vehicles (including medical
costs) is estimated at 3% of the European Union's GNP.
The anti-pollution measures are dealt with in three texts adopted, following amendment, by the
committee under the codecision procedure:
(1) a recommendation by Ms Heidi HAUTALA (Greens, Fin) seeking to improve the quality of petrol
and diesel fuels; and
(2) a recommendation concerning passenger cars and a report concerning light commercial
vehicles, both by Mr LANGE and both calling for tighter limits on exhaust emissions. The pollutants
emitted include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, unburnt hydrocarbons, benzenes and toxic
particles and contribute to the formation of secondary pollutants such as ozone.
The texts convey the committee's reaction to the Auto-Oil Programme, a collaborative venture
between the Commission and the motor and oil industries which was launched four years ago when
Parliament and the Council asked the Commission to devise a strategy to reduce road vehicle
emissions with the aim of improving air quality in a cost-effective manner (although the committee
showed a clear preference yesterday for cost-benefit criteria over cost-effectiveness). The
committee criticized the fact that social groupings, political decision-makers and non-governmental
organizations did not participate in the programme.
At its first reading of the two recommendations in April 1997, Parliament had indicated that it wanted
to go further than Council or Commission in the direction of environmental protection. The proposals
to improve fuel quality and toughen emission limits prescribe action in two stages: by 2000 and
2005. While it is generally agreed that the first stage should be mandatory, Council and Commission
want the last stage to be simply indicative. The Commission representative told the committee that
further technical analysis should be carried out under a second Auto-Oil Programme before the 2005
figures are confirmed. Rejecting this view, however, the committee decided that there should be
mandatory specifications for 2005.
A second-reading recommendation by Ms HAUTALA, who took her text over from former MEP Noël
MAMÈRE, modified the Council's common position on a Commission proposal (amending existing
directive 93/12/EEC) on the quality of petrol and diesel fuels. The committee adopted the
This is the programme's key proposal as improved fuel quality will benefit all vehicles, whether new
or old, immediately, whereas emission limits and improved engine technology (dealt with in the
LANGE texts) will only apply to new vehicles.
In her explanatory statement, Ms Hautala said that the common position was far from satisfactory,
although it took a few steps towards meeting Parliament's demands. Hence, she was retabling key
amendments from the first reading.
The committee agreed with the Council that no leaded petrol should be sold anywhere in Europe
after 1 January 2000 except where such a ban would result in severe socio-economic problems.
In that case, the deadline could be moved back to 1 January 2005. However, the committee insisted
that any leaded petrol used after 1 January 2000 must still meet all the other specifications for
petrol that come into force on that date.
Similarly, unleaded petrol sold after 1 January 2000 must comply with higher environmental
specifications, including stricter values than the Council had wanted for olefins, aromatics, oxygen
and sulphur. However, the committee decided that this deadline could be postponed until 1 January
2001 if a Member State's industries faced severe difficulties in making the necessary manufacturing
Stringent environmental specifications will also apply to diesel fuel from 1 January 2000, including
a greater reduction in sulphur content than the Council had proposed. However, by a vote of 20 to
19 the committee decided that this deadline could be put off until 1 January 2003 if severe social
and economic difficulties would otherwise ensue.
A further toughening of mandatory specifications for both petrol and diesel is proposed with effect
from 1 January 2005. Moreover, in the event of serious recurrent atmospheric pollution in a specific
area, Member States may impose stricter environmental specifications than those laid down in the
Members also thought that a higher-quality diesel than that meeting only the minimum specifications
should be available from 2000 onwards and that Member States should be able to give a tax
advantage to more advanced fuels.
Members felt that, when revising this directive in the future, the Commission could set special fuel
specifications for fleets of buses, taxis and commercial vehicles (which cause a lot of urban
pollution). Levels could also be set then for liquid petroleum gas, natural gas and biofuels.
By an overwhelming majority, the committee adopted a second-reading recommendation by Mr
LANGE modifying the Council's common position on a Commission proposal for a directive
(amending existing directive 70/220/EEC) on measures to combat motor vehicle emissions. This
concerns passenger cars. Members accepted all 73 of Mr Lange's amendments. In particular, the
rapporteur had across-the-board backing from the committee for his view that emission limits for
2005 should be mandatory.
The Auto-Oil Programme envisages a package of measures to reduce emissions, such as improved
engine design, better maintenance, servicing and testing, kerbside checks on vehicles, the use of
alternative fuels, traffic management and improved public transport. The committee is particularly
favourable to proposals for the installation of on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems to monitor the
durability of anti-pollution equipment, but it is adamant that data from such monitoring must be
available without restriction to all garage repairers and spare-parts manufacturers.
Surveys of petrol and diesel engines actually in service in vehicles (as opposed to new engines) are
also proposed with a view to establishing shortcomings in durability that can be ascribed to the
manufacturer, who must put right any fault detected or face sanctions (eg withdrawal of type
The common position takes account of one of Parliament's key demands - the introduction of a test
procedure for cold-starts in low ambient temperatures. It also goes some way towards
accommodating Parliament's wishes as regards OBD systems. However, according to the
rapporteur, "in all other respects virtually no notice has been taken of Parliament's amendments".
Accordingly, he resubmitted most of Parliament's first reading amendments which the Council had
Amending the common position, the committee called for further legislation to plug the gap
represented by the absence of EU legislation on reducing CO2 emissions from vehicle exhausts. Tax
incentives should be used to encourage the early introduction of vehicles containing the most
advanced anti-pollution equipment. Other amendments adopted called for the faster replacement
of obsolete vehicles and for the retrofitting of older vehicles with emission control devices.
Members also took the view that vehicles using hydrogen and/or solar or methane energy should
be put on sale. Ten per cent of public transport vehicles should use renewable energy, they thought,
and a tax framework should be created as soon as possible to accelerate the introduction of
innovative propulsion technologies and the use of alternative fuels.
The committee also adopted, unanimously, a first-reading report by Mr LANGE modifying a
Commission proposal for a directive (amending existing directives 70/156/EEC and 70/220/EEC)
on measures to combat motor vehicle emissions. This concerns light commercial vehicles (LCVs)
of the sort used for distribution in towns, where an improvement in air quality is most urgent.
Much of what is contained in the anti-pollution proposals for passenger cars can also be applied
to LVCs. However, since LCVs are tuned differently from passenger cars, emission limits have to
be adjusted. The committee replaced the emission limits in the common position with a table
submitted by the rapporteur, but accepted an amendment from the floor allowing off-road vehicles
to be categorized as LVCs. It also decided that the limits for 2005 should be mandatory, not
The committee chairman is Mr KEN COLLINS (PES, UK).
Further information: Patrick REYNOLDS - tel. 284 470