Car emissions: MEPs urge EU Commission and member states to clean up their act  

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MEPs call for improved EU oversight of car emissions testing to prevent future scandals. ©AP Images/European Union-EP  

The fact that diesel cars’ nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are much higher in real driving conditions than in laboratory tests was known to the EU member states and Commission over a decade ago. They should now act swiftly to improve tests and checks on new cars on EU roads, say MEPs in recommendations voted on Tuesday. In a separate vote, MEPs also amended EU “type approval” rules to make environmental and safety testing more independent, with stricter oversight of cars already on the road.

The non-binding recommendations to the Commission and the Council are based on a final report by the Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurement in the Automotive Sector (EMIS).

Members concluded that although the EU Commission and member states were already aware, more than a decade ago, that diesel cars’ nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in laboratory tests differ markedly from those measured on the roads, they failed to act appropriately to protect air quality and public health.

Furthermore, no authority in the member states suspected or searched for “defeat devices” - they performed only standard type-approval tests - and neither did the Commission raise any suspicion. After the emissions scandal broke in September 2015, the Commission expected member states to conduct the investigations and did not press for additional action, while the member states failed to penalise car manufacturers or to demand recalls of faulty cars, notes the text.

Recommendations to improve EU legislation and ensure it is enforced

The key recommendations are that:

  • all work on drafting on air quality and emissions legislation should be placed within the portfolio of a single Commissioner and Directorate-General, to improve oversight and focus,

  • EU legislation on real driving emissions should be adopted swiftly, with tests covering a wide range of driving conditions, but also with non-predictable variations to detect illegal defeat devices,

  • car buyers affected by the scandal should be financially compensated by the car manufacturers involved. The Commission should also propose rules for a collective harmonised EU redress system, strengthening consumer protection, and

  • new type approval rules should be adopted as quickly as possible, to introduce new EU oversight of the system, with clearly defined responsibilities.


MEPs overhaul EU car approval rules to prevent further emissions scandals


In a separate vote, Parliament approved changes to the EU Commission’s draft law on type approval to improve control of the work done by testing centres and national authorities who approve vehicles for sale. Checks on cars already on the road should be stepped up and the Commission should get more oversight whether national authorities are doing their job and, in some cases, test cars itself.

Each year EU member states would have to test at least 20% of the car models placed on the market in their country in the previous year, and fines imposed by the Commission on car manufacturers who falsify test results could be of €30,000 per vehicle, says the text. Penalty revenue should be used to support market surveillance, benefit affected consumers or for environmental protection, it adds.


Next steps

The amended type approval proposal was approved by 585 votes to 77, with 19 abstentions and referred back to the Internal Market Committee with a view to upcoming inter-institutional negotiations. The Council still needs to agree its position on this file before three-way talks (“trilogues”) with Parliament and Commission can start.

Who's involved 
Draft recommendation following the inquiry into emission measurements... 
Who's involved 
Inquiry into emission measurements in the automotive sector