Documents considered by the Committee on 20 January 2016 - European Scrutiny Contents

5 Emissions from road vehicles

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information requested
Document detailsDraft Regulation amending Regulations (EC) No. 715/2007 and (EC) No. 595/2009 as regards the reduction of pollutant emissions from road vehicles
Legal baseArticle 114 TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV
Document Numbers(35797), 6202/14 + ADDs 1-2, COM(14) 28

Summary and Committee's conclusions

5.1 As a means of meeting its air quality objectives, the EU has sought to reduce exhaust emissions of nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particulate matter from vehicles, with Regulation (EC) No. 715/2007 dealing with passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, and Regulation (EC) No. 595/2009 with heavy duty vehicles.

5.2 The Commission put forward this draft Regulation in January 2014, which would replace its current powers in Regulation (EC) No. 715/2007 to amend non-essential elements of the Regulation through the former regulatory procedure with scrutiny by the use of delegated powers under Article 290 TFEU. In addition to this procedural change, it would make a number of substantive changes relating to an extension of the scope to heavier vehicles; the treatment of methane; limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and tailpipe emissions at cold temperatures: and it would also introduce an amendment to Regulation (EC) No. 595/2009 changing the scope of ammonia limits for heavy duty vehicles.

5.3 In March 2014, our predecessors reported that the Government's initial reaction was to see merit in the proposals for extending the scope to heavier vehicles, for methane, and for ammonia, but that it had reservations over the proposed changes to nitrogen dioxide limits and on low temperature emission limits being made by delegated acts, rather than through co-decision (being also in the latter case unaware of any justification for what had been proposed). In view of this, they decided to hold the document under scrutiny, pending further developments.

5.4 The Government has now told us that, following consideration in the Council and European Parliament, a consensus is close, although it says that this is likely to involve removing the current provisions on nitrogen dioxide, methane and increasing the upper mass limit, and asking the Commission to carry out reviews and bring forward further proposals in due course, as appropriate. At the same time, we understand that the European Parliament has proposed that measures to encourage eco-driving should be included, and that the Commission should bring forward new requirements relating to real driving emissions and to the fitting of defeat devices which have been used by manufacturers to falsify test results.

5.5 Whilst we are grateful to the Government for this update, it would appear that, in order to reach a consensus, it has been necessary to defer a decision on most of the key elements in the original proposal. We would therefore find it helpful if the Government could summarise which aspects now remain, and what their impact will be. In the meantime, we propose to continue to hold the document under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: Draft Regulation amending Regulations (EC) No. 715/2007 and (EC) No. 595/2009 as regards the reduction of pollutant emissions from road vehicles: (35797), 6202/14 + ADDs 1-2, COM(14) 28.


5.6 As a means of meeting 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).

5.7 In order to address a range of problems which had been identified with the way in which the two Regulations had operated and their effectiveness in improving air quality, the Commission put forward in January 2014 this draft Regulation, which, as regards Regulation (EC) No. 715/2007, would replace the Commission's current powers to amend non-essential elements of the Regulation through the former regulatory procedure with scrutiny by the use of delegated powers under Article 290 TFEU, and make the a number of substantive changes.

5.8 As our predecessors noted in their Report of 12 March 2014, the latter included:

Extending 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 producing 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 the 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 therefore proposed that the total hydrocarbon limit for positive ignition (petrol and natural gas) engines should either be increased or replaced by a limit which does not include methane. On the other hand, it proposed 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 had observed that emissions of NO2 are particularly problematic in the vicinity of busy roads in cities, where they have a significant health impact. It said 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 proposed 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.

5.9 In addition, the new Regulation would introduce a single amendment to Regulation (EC) No. 595/2009, changing 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.

5.10 Our predecessors also noted that the Government was still considering the proposals, but that its initial view was that the one on methane seemed logical; that increasing the upper mass limit for approval to Regulation No. (EC) 715/2007 would improve flexibility for vehicle manufacturers, and be welcome from a better regulation perspective; and that the removal of ammonia limits from heavy duty engines with positive ignition was also a rational approach, and welcome from a better regulation perspective. On the other hand, whilst the Government considered that specifying a limit for NO2 could be helpful in achieving full compliance with air quality limits, it expected the Commission to consider whether there was any risk that setting primary NO2 limit values could tie industry to particular emission control technologies, and, as any proposals would involve setting new limits, it considered that these should be subject to co-decision, rather than by the adoption of a delegated act. Likewise, it believed that the introduction of new low-temperature emission limits were substantive changes, rather than updates made in line with technical progress, and should therefore also be subject to co-decision: and, in addition, it was not aware of any justification for a further reduction under cold start conditions.

5.11 The Government said that it would be consulting on the Commission's proposals in due course, and, in view of this, our predecessors decided to hold the document under scrutiny, pending further information.

Subsequent developments

5.12 Shortly before the General Election, the Committee received an update from the then Minister of State at the Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer), which reported that progress in the Council had been slow, and that the European Parliament had yet to publish a draft report. However, we have now received a letter of 21 December 2015 from the present Minister (Andrew Jones), indicating that a consensus is close, and summarising the position on the various elements in the proposal.

5.13 In particular, he reports that:

·  although the UK (along with other Member States) has continued to argue that emission limits for nitrogen dioxide and for emissions measured under low ambient temperatures should be set through co-decision, the Commission has not been willing to propose this: it therefore seems likely that the proposal will be adopted without any changes to the limit values, and that the Commission will merely be required to carry out reviews in each area where limit value changes are necessary (and, if appropriate, to bring forward proposals under the ordinary legislative procedure);

·  in the light of opposition from some Member States and the industry, the proposal on methane is expected to be amended to require the Commission to carry out a more comprehensive review before making further proposals;

·  although the relevant European Parliament committee supported increasing the upper mass limit for approval of light duty vehicles, there was no clear agreement among Member States, and it appears as though this too will be included among those items where the Commission will be asked to carry out a review and bring forward proposals in the future where appropriate; and

·  there has also been resistance from many Member States to removing the application of the ammonia limit to positive ignition vehicles, and the Commission is now proposing to retain the limit whilst introducing a technology-neutral approach to its measurement.

5.14 The Minister also reports that the European Parliament has proposed two amendments. First, the inclusion of measures (such as fuel consumption meters and gear shift indicators) to encourage eco-driving. He says that he is minded to support the fitment of fuel consumption meters on passenger cars as a low cost measure which could bring a 3% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions when combined with existing requirements on gear shift indicators. Secondly, the European Parliament has said that the Commission should bring forward new requirements implementing real driving emissions from 2017, and that it should also review the fitment of defeat devices in the light of the recent disclosure that manufacturers have been using these to falsify test results. However, he notes that these issues have been addressed in a recent Commission Regulation[22] (which we considered on 25 November 2015, and recommended for debate).

5.15 The Minister concludes by saying that, throughout these negotiations, his officials have maintained a dialogue with the industry, and that the final outcome is likely to be in line with expectations, although there will be disappointment that certain elements will be subject to further review. He also says that trilogue discussions have now opened in Brussels, and that there appears to be a broad consensus, making it likely that the outcome will be a satisfactory compromise, and that the Presidency will seek adoption of the proposal before the end of the year.

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-ninth Report HC 83-xxxvi (2013-14), chapter 5 (12 March 2014).

22   (37286), 14506/15: see Tenth Report HC 342-x (2015-16), chapter 1 (25 November 2015). Back

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Prepared 29 January 2016