December 19, 2016 / 2:02 PM / 7 months ago

EU parliament critical of delays to new car emissions rules

3 Min Read

BRUSSELS, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Several EU countries, including Italy, France and Spain, have delayed the adoption of stricter car emissions' tests, despite evidence that this has allowed pollution to go above legal limits, a draft report by European Parliament said on Monday.

The draft report, seen by Reuters, blamed the delays on the EU executive's desire to protect Europe's powerful car industry following the 2008 financial crisis. The draft contains the conclusions of the parliament's investigation into the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal.

"In 2012, there were already clear signs that something was wrong with the emissions of diesel cars," Dutch Liberal politician Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy said in a statement on the draft report.

"Dieselgate would not have happened if our national governments and the European Commission had acted in line with their legal and administrative responsibilities," Gerbrandy said in the statement. He said the parliament's investigations showed that unnecessary delays in decision-making, negligence and maladministration contributed to making it possible.

The draft report, which will face amendments before going to a vote in the European Parliament early next year, recommends a shake up of the European Commission to create a single Commissioner in charge of policies to address air quality and also to address the sources of pollutant emissions.

The Commission will meet with representatives of the bloc's 28 nations on Tuesday to vote on strengthening new on-road emissions tests that will supplement laboratory tests using dynamometers, whose flaws were laid bare by the dieselgate scandal.

The new measures would extend testing from next September to ultrafine and health-harming particles emitted from the new generation of gasoline direct inject engines (GDI), but carmakers are calling for the measures to be delayed until 2019.

"Regulatory uncertainty simply leaves too little time for manufacturers to make the necessary changes to the design of vehicles, engines, exhaust systems and assembly lines," Erik Jonnaert, the head of European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said in a statement ahead of the vote.

The green group Transport & Environment says cheap technology already exists to scale back pollution from GDI engines, which emit as much as 10 times more particles blamed for early deaths than previous generation engines.

A year after VW admitted to cheating in the United States, EU sources say France and Germany, EU nations with big car industries, are expected to back the Commission's proposal for stronger rules by next year.

But it remains unclear whether Italy, Spain and a number of states in eastern Europe will do so.

"The vote is very much on a knife edge," said Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager of sustainable transport at T&E. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Jane Merriman)

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