Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Ninth Report

1   Emissions from heavy duty vehicles



+ ADDs 1-2

COM(07) 851

Draft Regulation on type-approval of motor vehicles and engines with respect to emissions from heavy duty vehicles (Euro VI) and on access to vehicle repair and maintenance information

Legal baseArticle 95 EC; co-decision; QMV
Basis of considerationSEM of 26 June 2008
Previous Committee ReportHC 16-xi (2007-08), chapter 4 (6 February 2008)
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionFor debate in European Committee


1.1  Vehicle emissions are one of the principal sources of atmospheric pollution, and the Community has had in place since 1970 mandatory "Euro" emissions standards for various categories of vehicle, which have been a necessary condition for obtaining type approval. These cover emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, methane, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and particulates, as well as a number of other matters.[1] In the case of heavy duty vehicles, so-called Euro V limits will apply from 1 October 2008, and the Commission put forward this document in December 2007, setting out proposals for Euro VI limits applicable to diesel engines and those powered by natural or liquefied petroleum gas. These would come into force from April 2013 for new type-approvals, and October 2014 for all newly registered vehicles.

1.2  As we noted in our Report of 6 February 2008, the Commission has proposed a number of measures, including:

  • a reduction of 80% in diesel emissions of nitrogen oxides, and of 67% in those of particulate matter, by comparison with the Euro V standards;
  • a tightening of the limit on the emissions of ammonia from vehicle exhausts;
  • a 71% reduction in permitted emissions of hydrocarbons from diesel engines;
  • a commitment to supplement the proposed particulate mass limit by introducing a limit on the number of particles emitted so as to better control emissions of the smallest particles;[2]
  • increases in the current mileage durability requirements (from 500,000 km to 700,000 km, in the case of the largest vehicles); and
  • separate emission limits for total hydrocarbons, for non-methane hydrocarbons, and for methane in the case of engines using natural or liquefied petroleum gas.

1.3  The proposal would also require the Commission to keep the current list of controlled pollutants under review, and to propose the inclusion of emissions limits for additional pollutants, if appropriate; permit Member States to offer financial incentives for early compliance with the proposed emission limits; require the Commission to develop and adopt a standardised process for measuring fuel consumption and the carbon dioxide emissions of heavy duty engines; and require the Commission to adopt the detail of the test procedures, on-board diagnostic systems, and other technical details required in order to demonstrate compliance with the proposed emissions standards.

1.4  We went on to note that the Government was still considering the policy implications of these proposals, but that, whilst believing that they would make a useful contribution to achieving European and UK air quality targets, it had pointed out that:

  • although the Regulation was intended to provide equivalence with the United States Environmental Protection Agency's 2010 limits, this would, in fact, be only approximate;
  • the required reductions in particulate matter, and more particularly in nitrogen oxides, are quite challenging;
  • although the contribution of vehicles to atmospheric emissions of ammonia is not currently high, the level has been rising, and tighter limits are desirable if they can be achieved without incurring disproportionate costs;
  • the proposed reduction in hydrocarbon emission limits is not really necessary in the United Kingdom, which meets its related air quality targets;
  • the imposition of a particle number limit would have positive implications for public health, but it is likely to be several years before sufficient data exists to set limit values; and
  • the proposal would limit application of the separate emission limits for total hydrocarbons, for non-methane hydrocarbons, and for methane to spark ignition engines, but does not extend this to compression ignition engines such as those which use natural gas as the bulk fuel — a step which he considers would be sensible in order to avoid trade barriers.

1.5  The Minister also commented that the United Kingdom has a long established opposition to the principle of including provisions on fiscal matters in proposals adopted by qualified majority voting under Article 95; that the Commission's proposal to keep the current list of controlled pollutants under review is evidently sensible; and that the proposal that it should adopt detailed measures to ensure conformity with the emissions limits set is unobjectionable. However, he says that the implications of the proposed limits on emissions of carbon dioxide are a matter of some concern. In particular, whilst it would be technically unrealistic to avoid a reduction in emissions from heavy duty vehicles having some adverse impact on carbon dioxide emissions because of the resultant increase in fuel consumption, a study undertaken for the Government had suggested that this increase could be as high as 8%, whereas the Commission has suggested that a figure of 2-3% (which he believes would be unlikely to be attainable within the timescale envisaged).

1.6   The Minister added that the Government intended to conduct a public consultation, and that an Impact Assessment was under preparation. We therefore said that, as this was a complex proposal which could have far reaching effects, which raised a number of issues requiring further clarification, and which might well merit further consideration in due course, we proposed to defer a final view until we had received that Assessment. In the meantime, we intended to hold the document under scrutiny.

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 26 June 2008

1.7  We have now received from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport (Mr Jim Fitzpatrick) a supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 26 June 2008, enclosing the draft Impact Assessment, which will form the basis of the Government's formal consultations on the proposals, and which provides a cost-benefit analysis of the effect of the proposals over a 100 year period.[3]

1.8  The Assessment highlights the short and long-term health benefits which would arise from the proposed reductions in emissions, especially of nitrogen oxides and particulates, and the extent to which road transport continues to be a significant contributor to those emissions, as well as the particular contribution of heavy duty vehicles (the vast majority of which are diesel-driven). It notes that, in putting forward its proposals, the Commission was driven principally by these considerations and by the wider environmental impact of greenhouse gases and their precursors.

1.9  However, the Assessment also draws attention to the resultant "fuel penalty", arising from the higher consumption which the measures would generate, and it says that this could give rise to two distinct additional costs — those due to increased expenditure on fuel, and those due to the resultant increases in emissions of carbon dioxide. Moreover, it goes on to confirm, as does the Minister's supplementary Explanatory Memorandum, the clear difference of view between the Commission and the UK on the extent of that penalty, largely because the Commission appears to have assumed (as yet undefined) future technological improvements to fuel consumption. In view of this, the Assessment contains two separate estimates of the costs and benefits arising from the proposals, based on these two different assumptions. These can be summarised as follows (with the annual equivalent figures shown in brackets):
Cost (£m)
Benefit (£m)
Net benefit (£m)
11,866 (482)
4,078 to 9,497 (166 to 385)
-7,788 to -2,370 (-316 to -97)
5,903 (240)
3,718 to 8,658 (151 to 351)
-2,185 to +2,756 (-89 to +112)

Although the Assessment acknowledges that the UK's estimates assume that technology costs remain constant over the whole 100 year period, and may thus over-estimate the actual costs, it nevertheless points out that they suggest there would be a net cost, whereas the Commission's figures would be cost-beneficial over at least part of the range. In other words, the assumption made about the fuel consumption is crucial to the ultimate outcome.

1.10  Finally, the Minister's supplementary Explanatory Memorandum discusses the particular implications of the proposals on climate change. Although any increase in fuel consumption would necessarily be accompanied by an equivalent increase in carbon dioxide emissions, it says that the overall impact of the proposals on climate change may well be neutral, due to the reduction in emissions of particulate matter (which is associated with the presence in the atmosphere of "black carbon"). As there is currently no means of quantifying the climate change impact of black carbon, this factor has not been included within the Impact Assessment, but the Minister adds that it is in any case the public health benefits arising from the proposals which commend them to the Government (as compared with other possible variants on this approach previously considered by the Commission).


1.11  We are grateful to the Minister for this further information, which reinforces our earlier view as to the importance of this proposal. In particular, we note the significant differences between the UK and the Commission over the extent of any "fuel penalty" arising from the proposals, and the effect which this has on the resultant cost-benefit analysis. We also note that, even though the Minister has described the UK's assumptions of future fuel consumption as "very cautious", the Government currently estimates that the proposals would give rise to a significant net cost. In view of this, and the complex and far-reaching nature of these proposals, we are recommending them for debate in European Committee.

1   Such as specifying the mileage and period of time ("durability") over which the limits laid down must continue to apply, access to on-board diagnostic information, and information on vehicle repair and maintenance. Back

2   Which contribute little to the total mass of particulate matter emitted, but which may have the main impact on health. Back

3   This period has been chosen to allow full quantification of the benefits which are expected to occur over a long time period, and it has also been used for calculating the anticipated costs. Back

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