Documents considered by the Committee on 12 March 2014 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

5 Emissions from road vehicles



COM(14) 28

+ ADDs 1-2

Draft Regulation amending Regulations (EC) No. 715/2007 and (EC) No. 595/2009 as regards the reduction of pollutant emissions from road vehicles
Legal base Article 114 TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Documents originated 31 January 2014
Deposited in Parliament 10 February 2014
Department Transport
Basis of consideration EM of 24 February 2014
Previous Committee Report None
Discussion in Council No date set
Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decision Not cleared; further information awaited


5.1 In order to meet its air quality objectives, the EU has (among other things) sought to reduce exhaust emissions of nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particulate matter from vehicles. In particular, Regulation (EC) No. 715/2007 regulates such emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, whilst Regulation (EC) No. 595/2009 has a corresponding aim as regards emissions from heavy duty vehicles (lorries, buses and coaches).

The current proposal

5.2 The Commission says that a range of problems have been identified with the way in which the two Regulations work individually and together in terms of their burden upon manufacturers and their effectiveness in improving air quality, and it has therefore proposed a number of amendments. Those relating to Regulation (EC) No. 715/2007 would replace the Commission's current powers to amend non-essential elements of the Regulation through the regulatory procedure with scrutiny by the use of delegated powers under Article 290 TFEU, and make the following substantive changes:

Extend the scope of the Regulation to heavier vehicles

The Regulation currently applies to light-duty vehicles with a reference mass not exceeding 2,610 kg, and manufacturers who produce platforms which could also be used for heavy duty vehicles with a reference mass falling above this limit are obliged to seek separate approval under the legislation applying to heavy duty emissions, even though technical specifications are effectively the same. The proposed amendment would extend the Regulation to vehicles with a mass up to 5,000 kg, and so allow a single approval to cover a wider range of vehicle variants, thus reducing manufacturers' costs.

Treatment of methane

Whilst methane is a strong greenhouse gas, it is not known to have a direct harmful effect on human health, and is currently regulated as an air pollutant through the application of a limit on total hydrocarbons, which covers both methane and non-methane hydrocarbons. Since natural gas vehicles have higher methane emissions than petrol or diesel powered vehicles, this limit can restrict their entry to market, even though overall they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission has therefore proposed that the total hydrocarbon limit for positive ignition engines should either be increased or replaced with a limit which does not include methane. On the other hand, it proposes that the reporting of carbon dioxide emissions for consumer information and regulatory purposes should in future include methane in a single greenhouse gas figure (expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents).

Limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) — made up of Nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — affect both health and the environment, and, whilst all NOx ultimately becomes NO2, the Commission has observed that emissions of NO2 are particularly problematic in the vicinity of busy roads in cities, where they have a significant health impact. It says that NO2 has typically contributed 5% to 10% of the exhaust emissions of modern diesel vehicles, but that recent technologies have seen a significant increase in that proportion, and it proposes to address this by introducing a separate NO2 limit.

Tailpipe emissions at cold temperatures

Tailpipe emissions are measured at ambient temperatures (between 20 and 30°C), but hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are measured at low ambient temperatures (-7°C) where exhaust after-treatment devices, such as catalysts, tend to be inefficient, due to their need to reach high operating temperatures before they are effective. The proposal would enable the Commission to tighten the hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide limits, and include the measurement of additional pollutants, such as NOx, at low temperatures.

5.3 The single proposed amendment to Regulation (EC) No. 595/2009 would change the scope of ammonia limits for heavy duty engines, which were introduced to control emissions of ammonia from NOx after-treatment devices which use a urea reagent. However, the limit also applies to positive ignition engines which do not require NOx after-treatment systems, and places an additional burden on manufacturers of compressed natural gas engines which bring significant benefits in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, but which may also generate small amounts of ammonia. Consequently, it is proposed that ammonia limits would apply only to compression ignition (diesel) engines.

The Government's view

5.4 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 24 February 2014, the Minister of State at the Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) says that the Government is still considering the policy implications of this proposal, but she makes the following initial comments:

·  since methane is not considered to be directly harmful to human health but is a significant greenhouse gas, it seems logical for manufacturers to report a single emissions figure for carbon dioxide and methane, and to deregulate the measurement of methane for air quality;

·  increasing the upper mass limit for approval to Regulation No. (EC) 715/2007 will improve flexibility for vehicle manufacturers by removing the need for a single vehicle type to have two type approvals, and would be welcome from a better regulation perspective;

·  the introduction of new low-temperature emission limits are substantive changes to the regulatory text, rather than updates in line with technical progress, and should therefore be subject to co-decision, rather than the adoption of a delegated act: in addition, the Government is not aware of any justification for a further reduction under -7°C cold start conditions (although it says that there may be some benefit in introducing a low temperature limit for NOx which could improve the performance of selective catalytic reduction technologies at low temperatures, and that it would expect the Commission to explore this further when developing its proposals);

·  specifying a limit for NO2 could be helpful in achieving full compliance with air quality limits, but the Government would expect the Commission to consider whether there is any risk that setting primary NO2 limit values could tie industry to certain emission control technologies which might prevent further long term reductions of other pollutants: also, as any proposals would involve setting new limits, the Government considers that these too should be subject to co-decision, rather than by adoption of a delegated act;

·  the removal of ammonia limits from heavy duty engines with positive ignition is a rational approach, and welcome from a better regulation perspective, since the current requirements increase approval test burden for no particular environmental benefit and their removal would ease the entry into market of natural gas powered vehicles.

5.5 The Minister says that the Government will consult with industry and other interested stakeholders on the Commission's proposals in due course.


5.6 The technical issues arising in this area are complex, as is the legislation which seeks to address them, but, so far as we can judge, the general thrust of these proposals appears to be sensible, and to both rationalise and simplify the existing Regulations, particularly as regards passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, in the light of experience of their operation. Having said that, we note that the Government does have a number of detailed comments, and that it intends to consult industry and others on the proposals. Consequently, whilst we are drawing the proposals to the attention of the House, we propose to hold the document under scrutiny, pending further clarification from the Government.

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Prepared 26 March 2014