Parliament urges stricter Auto/Oil rules

Environment committee adopts over 200 amendments to Auto/Oil draft directives

The environment committee of the European Parliament has adopted a raft of amendments aimed at strengthening proposed EU legislation on vehicle exhaust emissions and fuel quality. The committee voted this morning to pass more than 200 amendments to directives proposed by the European Commission under the Auto/Oil programme. The amendments, which had been proposed by four parliamentary committees, will now go for discussion by the full Parliament.

Amendments passed by the committee call for stricter limits on emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from cars, a radical cut in the sulphur and benzene content of motor fuels, and mandatory rather than indicative targets for the reduction of exhaust pollutants by 2005.

Published in June 1996, the Commission's Auto/Oil Programme sets targets for car emissions and fuel quality in 2000 and 2005. Members of the environment committee have already signalled that they feel that the Commission's proposals are insufficient to meet its own air quality objectives (ENDS Daily 4 February).

Most amendments relate to a proposed directive to reduce emissions from motor vehicles. In a surprise move, the committee has called for even stricter limits on car exhaust emissions than those proposed by its own rapporteur, Bernd Lange. The amendment adopted would reduce the proposed hydrocarbon emission limit for petrol-driven cars in 2000 from 0.2 gm/km to 0.12 gm/km.

The committee also reiterated its support for mandatory cold-start emissions testing of vehicles, manufacturer liability for the proper functioning of emission reduction systems such as catalytic converters, and mandatory fitting of onboard diagnostic systems.

Fewer amendments to the Commission's fuel quality proposal were passed, but committee members believe that they could have greater effects on air quality. During the committee's session, British MEP, David Bowe said: "Cleaner fuels produce more immediate gains than cleaner cars".

Amendments to the fuel quality directive passed today include a cut in the maximum benzene content of petrol from 2% to 1%, a reduction in the maximum sulphur content of petrol in 2005 from 200ppm to 30ppm, and a cut from 350ppm to 100ppm in the maximum level of sulphur in diesel in 2005. MEPs also insisted that mandatory limits for 2005 should be set now. The Commission proposal only sets indicative limits for this date.

If adopted by the full Parliament in April, the amendments will set Parliament on a collision course with the European Commission and the Council of Ministers, as well as industry (ENDS Daily 5 February). A number of EU governments have also made clear that they oppose more stringent legislation than that already proposed.

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