Officials attacked for lack of action over emissions crisis

November 23, 2016

The European Commission has been accused of failing to ‘deliver on its promises’ after missing a deadline to take legal action against EU countries for their role in the diesel emissions crisis.

Kathleen Van Brempt, chairman of the EU’s investigation into the emissions scandal, said infringement proceedings had to be taken against countries that were yet to issue penalties to car manufacturers.

She said: ‘So far, no member state has issued any penalties to car manufacturers for infringements although they are obliged to take all measures to ensure that rules are implemented.

‘The use of defeat devices, the falsifying of test results or withholding data or technical specifications are seen as infringements by European law. If member states are unwilling to enforce existing legislation, the commission should start infringement procedures without any delay.’

They have demanded answers from European commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, who gave evidence to the investigation in September and vowed that infringement proceedings could be launched ‘within weeks’.

Critics point out that after two months, there is no evidence of any action against countries for failing to prevent or punish manufacturer breaches of EU rules.

The lack of action is in stark contrast to the measures that Bieńkowska demanded in an angry attack on manufacturers and EU countries during her appearance before the committee.

At the time, she said: ‘What happened is really a total disgrace. It is a disgrace that defeat devices were designed and installed to cheat EU legislation. It is a disgrace that defeat devices were used on our roads. It is a disgrace that defeat devices were not uncovered and sanctioned and it is a disgrace that European consumers are still not receiving compensation.

‘We need to break with the past and I am determined to act until it is done. Industry bent the rules and they were and still are confident enough not to be investigated by the relevant national authorities.’

She told MEPs that she suspected more manufacturers were using defeat devices and warned she would not ‘shy away’ from using all the tools in the enforcement system to achieve her aims.

Formal changes to the way vehicles are approved for sale will be introduced from next year, but until then millions of cars are being sold with inaccurate emissions data.

A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation has revealed the gap between official emissions figures and real-world performance continues to grow.

Fuel use in some cars can be 42% higher than the figures manufacturers publish based on official EU tests.

ICCT researcher and study author Uwe Tietge said: ‘We collected data from one million vehicles from seven countries and all the data sources confirm that the gap between what the carmakers publish as their fuel consumption and what is actually the reality continues to reach new highs. In 2013, the discrepancy was about 25%. Today, it has reached 40%.’

A new test procedure will be launched next year in a bid to provide more accurate information about fuel use, but critics say it will still understate fuel consumption by 15%.

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