The European Commission plans to present a “political package” of proposals to country representatives on Friday in an effort to stop the European Parliament from killing new emissions standards for cars, according to a document obtained by POLITICO.
At stake is a vote scheduled next week in Strasbourg, where the European Parliament has to decide whether to object to an October decision by national experts giving diesel carmakers more time and leeway to comply with new nitrogen oxide emissions limits.
Under that decision, the gap between lab and road tests will have to be narrowed from 2017, but cars covered by new standards would still be able to emit twice as much NOx as in the regulations in force (80 milligrams per kilometer), with the permitted overshoot falling to 50 percent by 2020.
But the decision ran into a firestorm of protest in the European Parliament, as politicians were acutely aware of the optics of looser emissions standards after Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” scandal.
The outcome of the vote is still up in the air, but if Parliament does veto the standards, it could take years to develop new ones. That’s why the Commission is racing to send comforting signals to legislators.
Brussels will present a three-point package at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Friday afternoon in order to ensure the “swift adoption” of the new standards.
What’s in it:
1. Brussels is showing good faith by pointing out this week’s major overhaul of the EU car approval mechanism. The Commission is seeking — among other things — sweeping new powers to police carmakers and testing centers. The proposals “will allow both co-legislators to work on establishing a new, more efficient and reliable approval framework” for new vehicles.
2. The Commission is promising to swiftly work to reduce the measurement uncertainty that allows cars to overshoot emissions standards “already in 2017, and on an annual basis.” The idea is that as measurement technology improves, the margin of error for emissions would shrink.
While this is in line with what Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the industry commissioner, promised MEPs in Strasbourg earlier this month, national governments would have to be on board to have a chance at persuading parliamentarians.
“Support by Council and Parliament in this review process … would be crucial,” reads the memo prepared ahead of Friday’s meeting.
3. The Commission is also trying to reduce tensions with the Parliament by getting member countries to be open to ensuring a future role for legislators in setting emissions standards. The European Council and Parliament have been at loggerheads in recent months because the Parliament wants the right of veto, while national governments don’t agree.
“The Commission acknowledges the differences in the European Parliament’s and the Council’s positions on this issue,” reads the memo, which goes on to ask the Council to give a “clear indication” that it is ready to continue talks and it is open to the direction these talks may take, that “could contribute to a positive outcome.”
This article was first published on POLITICO Pro.