Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Second Report




COM(01) 543

Draft Directive amending Council Directives 70/156/EEC and 80/1268/EEC as regards the measurement of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption of N1 vehicles.

Legal base:Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Deposited in Parliament:5 December 2001
Department:Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration:SEM of 8 March 2002
Previous Committee Report:HC 152-xviii (2001-02), paragraph 6 (6 February 2002)
To be discussed in Council:No date set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared


  18.1  In order to prevent technical barriers to trade, Council Directive 70/156/EEC[39] seeks to approximate Member States' laws on the type-approval of motor vehicles, and Council Directive 80/1268/EEC[40] subsequently established the methods to be used in this connection for measuring the fuel consumption of passenger cars. More recently, further measures have been taken in recognition of the increasing contribution which such cars make to emissions of carbon dioxide, and the need to tackle these if the Community is to meet its commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008-2012 by 8% as compared with 1990 levels.

  18.2  In October 2001, the Commission put forward this proposal, which would introduce mandatory harmonised requirements for measuring carbon dioxide emissions from light goods vehicles (below 3.5 tonnes maximum laden weight), which it says account for approximately 10% of total road carbon dioxide emissions. The proposal would amend Council Directive 80/1268/EEC so as to bring within its scope new type-approvals as from 1 July 2003. Existing type-approvals would be covered as from 1 January 2006 for vehicles in Class I (less than 1305 kg unladen weight), and as from 1 January 2007 for the larger vehicles in classes II and III. The amendment would not, however, apply to vehicles where the manufacturer produces less than 2000 units a year world-wide, and where they comply with Community legislation governing emissions from heavy duty diesel engines.

  18.3  In our Report of 6 February 2002, we noted that, in an Explanatory Memorandum of 23 January 2002, the Minister of State at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr John Spellar) had said that the proposal related to the measurement of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel efficiency, and would in itself have neither an environmental impact nor major cost implications, other than the cost of testing. However, he pointed out that the Commission's underlying aim was to facilitate the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from these vehicles, either through future Community action, voluntary agreements with manufacturers, or national incentive schemes, even though the scope for achieving this was unclear. In particular, industry believed that it would be unrealistic to expect a reduction in fuel consumption similar to the 25% cut agreed for cars in 2008 relative to 1995, since the main means of achieving the latter (increased diesel market share and petrol engine efficiency), would not apply to light commercial vans ( the vast majority of which already had diesel engines). The industry had therefore argued that the proposal should be confined to class I vehicles, which are mostly car-derived, produced in a smaller range of variants than the larger class II and III types, and sold complete, rather than as chassis-cabs. The Minister also said that industry has asked that vehicles with only minor differences should be grouped into a family, with only the worst case being tested, and that the exemption in the proposal for low-volume manufacturers should be extended beyond those complying with emission levels for diesel engines.

  18.4  Pending a more detailed examination, the Minister provided with his Explanatory Memorandum an initial Regulatory Impact Assessment. This suggested that reductions in average carbon dioxide emissions from commercial vehicles arising from this proposal would be unlikely to exceed 10%, and it pointed out that light goods vehicle traffic is expected to increase by 25% between 2000 and 2010. Taking these two factors together, it concluded that replacing the entire light goods fleet with new vehicles would lead to an annual reduction of around 500,000 tonnes of carbon, equivalent to about 0.34% of current UK emissions overall. The Assessment also suggested that, for a manufacturer producing small volumes of commercial vehicles, the overall cost of tests might be of the order of £20,000 a year, whereas it could range from £130,000 to £230,000 for larger manufacturers. More significantly, costs of around £10 million per manufacturer could arise if new test facilities were required.

  18.5  In our Report of 6 February 2002, we suggested that there was more to this apparently innocuous proposal than met the eye, and that it dealt with an area of some technical complexity. In view of this, we said that, before taking a view, we would await the further Regulatory Impact Assessment which the Minister had promised to supply.

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 8 March 2002

  18.6  That Assessment has now been provided with the Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 8 March 2002 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr David Jamieson). It suggests that, although the measure is a first step towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions from light goods vehicles, future developments might include establishing a target figure for reducing average emissions and making data available for consumer information (though it says that the value of the latter step might be limited since purchasers of fleet vehicles are generally supplied with sample vehicles and assess fuel consumption themselves before buying). The Assessment also points out the scientific and economic uncertainties surrounding the social costs of carbon emissions, and states that figures produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of £35-140 per tonne should be regarded only as illustrative of the possible costs.

  18.7  The remainder of the Assessment addresses the emission reductions and compliance costs of three possible approaches, involving (i) the proposal in its present form, (ii) reducing the level of testing required by allowing the grouping of vehicles into families and then testing a single worst-case variant from the family, and (iii) limiting the scope of the proposal to class I vehicles. As regards the present proposal, the Assessment reiterates the figures in paragraph 18.4 above on the possible annual reduction in carbon emissions in the UK, and suggests that the increased costs for the larger manufacturer would average around £250,000 annually (with an equivalent figure for smaller manufacturers as regard the grouping of vehicles, the Assessment assumes that this would produce representative data which would be just as effective for use in measures to reduce carbon emissions as data recorded for every single variant, but that the increased annual costs for a typical manufacturer would fall to around £39,000 (and to negligible levels for those producing only a small number of vehicles). Finally, the Assessment says that confining testing to class I vehicles (which it is assumed account for 20% of emissions from light goods vehicles) would produce carbon savings of 0.10 million tonnes (about 0.07% of all such emissions in the UK), whilst the increase in costs would be no more than £7,000 for a typical manufacturer. The Assessment also suggests that these three approaches would in turn increase the annual cost to consumers by £755,000, £195,000 and £9,000 respectively. It concludes by saying that, whilst the limited scope for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from light goods vehicles means that the industry is not convinced of the likely benefits, the industry has indicated its general support for the measure, coupled with a preference for this to be limited to class I vehicles. It would also like to see the introduction of the family concept allowing the testing of group variants of vehicles with minor differences.


  18.8  We are grateful to the Minister for this further information, in the light of which we have considered carefully whether any further consideration should be given to this document. On balance, we have concluded that this is not necessary, partly because it seems to us that the issues which arise have been clearly identified, and partly because the main significance of the proposal lies in the possibility of the Commission proposing at some future date further action to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from light goods vehicles. On the basis that the House would have an opportunity to consider fully any such proposals, we are clearing the present document.

39   OJ No. L.42, 23.2.70, p.1. Back

40   OJ No. L.375, 31.12.80, p.36. Back

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