EU ministers to agree van emissions plan

Light commercial vehicles directive expected to pass Environment Council with few changes

EU environment ministers are expected to agree only minor changes to a European Commission proposal to reduce emissions from light commercial vehicles (LCV) when they meet in Brussels tomorrow.

The draft LCV directive, which was published by the Commission in February, is the third to be proposed under the EU's Auto/Oil research programme. The European Parliament and Council of Ministers have already given their opinions on draft fuel quality and car emissions directives and a further proposal on emissions from heavy goods vehicles was released by the Commission earlier this month (ENDS Daily 3 December).

The LCV proposal covers vans up to 3.5 tonnes, cars over 2.5 tonnes and off-road vehicles. It will set new emissions limit values in line with those for passenger cars and is expected to significantly reduce emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxides and hydrocarbons after 2000.

As expected, most EU countries are proposing to leave the Commission's exhaust emissions limit values for 2000 unchanged (ENDS Daily 11 September). However, Denmark, supported by Austria, Belgium, Finland and Greece, is holding out for a slight reduction in particulate emissions limits. A national official told ENDS Daily that he doubted the Danish bid would be successful.

In line with their common position on car emissions, environment ministers are expected to approve tighter technical measures than the Commission to reduce exhaust emissions. Cold start emissions tests and on-board systems will be made mandatory for all LCVs if the Council's proposed changes go through.

Also on the table are proposed derogations to allow some types of vehicles a delay before having to meet the directive's provisions. In particular, off-road vehicles are likely to be given looser emissions limits than standard cars until 2004 or 2005. Austria, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Sweden would like to see the derogation applied only to off-road vehicles with direct injection diesel motors. For six-seater family cars, however, environment ministers are likely to favour a shorter derogation than the Commission.

National officials contacted by ENDS Daily today expected the proposal to be agreed without any serious arguments. Despite the consensus however, ministers are unwilling to reach a common position on the draft directive because the European Parliament has yet to give its opinion on the proposal. A spokesman for the Luxembourg presidency of the EU said that the presidency "would like to produce something which is almost, but not quite a common position" tomorrow.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: + 32 2 285 6111.

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