Brussels and Paris want revision of EU exhaust standards

Nearly 10 major European cities, including Paris, Brussels, and Rome, have petitioned the European Parliament, demanding stricter standards for air quality and exhaust emissions.

The 27 EU member states approved in September a watered-down regulation. This has yet to be negotiated with the European Parliament, which has not yet determined its position. The 27 do not want the new Euro 7 standards to deviate from the already existing Euro 6 standards.

Less stringent path

Initiated by France and Italy, member states have toned down the tightening of applicable standards. According to them, it threatened to curb investment by EV manufacturers.

They favored a less stringent path than the proposal formulated by the European Commission in November 2022, which aimed to significantly reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and fine particles from vehicles.

Step backward

For the cities that signed the petition, this represents a step backward and a failure to integrate WHO standards on air quality and motor vehicle emissions. In addition to initiator Paris, they include Rome, Brussels, the Croatian cities of Zagreb and Krizevci, as well as Bordeaux, Montpellier, Besançon and Lyon.

“We, the big cities of Europe, represent 75% of the European population and cannot accept that democracy is ignored”, they argue. In the petition, they call for “an ambitious standard, in line with that of the WHO.”

60 mg/km

This text on the Euro 7 standard, a European emissions standard aimed at reducing pollution caused by traffic, must apply from 2025 to replace Euro 6 and makes it possible to classify all passenger vehicles and heavy goods vehicles, regardless of whatever their type of engine, depending on their level of pollutant emissions.

For example, as far as nitrogen oxide is concerned, gasoline cars currently have a limit of 60 mg/km, and diesel cars have a limit of 80 mg/km. That was always to be 60 mg/km in the new legislation, according to the Commission, “regardless of technology”. Emissions tests were also to be more realistic.

The new legislation would take effect July 1, 2025, for cars and vans and July 1, 2027, for buses and trucks.

Concerns about the automobile sector

However, on the proposal of France and Italy, supported by Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia, the member states have now decided to make several “pragmatic adjustments” to the Commission’s proposal.

They want the test conditions, as well as the emission limits for passenger cars and light vans set in the Euro 6 legislation, to remain unchanged. For buses and trucks, however, they allow lower emissions standards and slightly modified test conditions.

The countries were concerned about the competitiveness of the sector in Europe and the 14 million or so jobs that depend on it.

The car industry itself also sounded the alarm, saying it wants to avoid having to pump more money into the internal combustion engine – read: more investments in new technologies, such as brake dust filtration – because it will disappear in the foreseeable future anyway. According to the manufacturers, the Euro 7 standard also delays the transition to EVs.

The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) believes that all internal combustion engine cars will become 2 600 euros more expensive because of the Euro 7 standard, a figure contested by other sources. It also fears competition from Chinese brands selling purely EVs, but even as sales plummeted, the auto industry and EU constructors, in general, saw sky-high profits this year.

Towards a compromise?

Germany and Ireland, in particular, formulated criticism of this adjustment at the time. The combustion-engine cars that can still be sold until 2035 will continue to be driven around for a long time, according to them. Moreover, the text does not leave open the possibility of exploring the options offered by other technologies, such as e-fuels or synthetic fuels.

“Instead of forcing these (car) manufacturers to adapt to an ambitious standard, Europe is preparing to adapt to their demands and their interests”, the signatory mayors believe now, predicting that “stopping the current standard would condemn us to suffer from the emissions of these vehicles until 2050.”

So, member states must now work out a compromise with the European Parliament, which has yet to determine its position, however. According to official EU studies, every year, air pollution is responsible for 70 000 deaths in the EU, including 1 200 kids.


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