Magistrate Says EU Emissions Regulations Don’t Go Far Enough

A trio of European capital cities brought the complaint seeking tougher rules on car emissions.

Smoke rises from a factory as a truck loaded with cars crosses a bridge in Paris in 2018. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

LUXEMBOURG (CN) — New European vehicle emissions limits set after the 2015 Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal aren’t restrictive enough, an adviser to the EU’s top court said Thursday.

Advocate General Michal Bobek sided with Paris, Madrid and Brussels, arguing that the Court of Justice of the European Union should uphold a decision finding that 2016 pollution regulations are too lax. 

“None of the appellants or interveners have put forward any convincing argument to demonstrate that the General Court has fundamentally misunderstood the facts or misread the evidence submitted by the parties. On the contrary, the General Court came to a conclusion that is not only possible, but also appears to find support in various official documents that are relevant and which were referred to by the parties,” the Czech magistrate wrote in his nonbinding advisory opinion.

The three capital cities filed a complaint with the Luxembourg-based court shortly after the new pollution rules — which limited how much nitrogen oxide could be emitted by cars — were put into place. The new regulations were created in response to the 2015 admission from Volkswagen that it had been artificially reducing emissions during testing. 

In 2018, the cities won the first round at the General Court, the EU’s second-highest court, where the judges found that bloc leaders set excessively high emissions limits. The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, appealed to the Court of Justice, the EU’s top court, along with Germany and Hungary. 

The so-called Dieselgate scandal had focused on emissions produced by cars in laboratory settings and the EU wanted to ensure that cars were held to tough emissions standards in actual driving conditions. In response, the commission introduced the real driving emissions testing procedure, which requires the manufacturers of new cars to show vehicle emissions are below a certain threshold while in normal use. 

Initially, the commission set the limit at 80 milligrams of nitrogen oxide per kilometer, the so-called Euro 6 level set by the European Parliament. But after pressure from the auto industry, that cap was raised to 168 milligrams per kilometer until 2020. 

Bobek agreed with the lower court that the commission didn’t have the authority to deviate from the standard set by lawmakers.

“The commission did alter the legal situation by expressly tolerating emissions above the limits decided by the EU legislature, with those specific limits being an essential element that the commission was not entitled to effectively alter by mere implementing legislation,” he found. 

National governments have lost a series of nitrogen oxide emission cases before the Court of Justice in recent years. Hungary, Italy, France, and Germany have all been found to be not meeting the standards set by the EU. 

Car and truck emissions are the primary sources of nitrogen dioxide. The pollutant can cause respiratory problems, including lung disease and cancer, in addition to harming the environment. According to the commission, around 400,000 die prematurely in the EU every year due to exposure to pollutants. 

The Court of Justice will issue a final ruling in the matter in the coming months.

%d bloggers like this: