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#EUVehicleEmissions laws improved since #Dieselgate, but challenges remain, warn auditors

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EU laws on vehicle emissions have been improved since the Dieselgate scandal, but challenges remain, according to a new Briefing Paper from the European Court of Auditors. The auditors welcome the improvements in market surveillance but point out that its effectiveness depends on implementation by the member states. They also warn that manufacturers may find ways around the new testing systems which have been introduced and that scope for independent third-party testing may be limited because of the high costs involved.

In 2015, discrepancies between vehicle emission levels in the laboratory and on the road were brought into sharp focus by the so-called Dieselgate scandal, which revealed that some car makers were using “defeat devices” to produce significantly lower emissions during official tests than during normal driving.

Dieselgate stimulated the EU to accelerate legislative initiatives already underway and to take new action. The European Parliament set up an enquiry into emissions measurement and the European Commission announced plans to improve the available data on vehicle emissions testing, which is limited, fragmented, and difficult to access. In addition, there were a large number of changes to EU vehicle emissions checks:

  • The Commission can now review the work of national type-approval authorities, test vehicles themselves, withdraw or suspend type-approvals, and impose penalties;
  • testing of vehicles in circulation is now mandatory in EU member states and may also be conducted by interested third-parties, and;
  • new tests have been introduced to tackle the large gap between CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission levels in the laboratory and on the road, and to measure NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions.As many of the new rules are not yet fully in force, it was too early to assess whether the problems have been solved. Nevertheless, the auditors highlight a number of challenges facing the new system of testing.

    “We welcome the fact that the actions have been taken, but it may take many years to improve inner-city air quality, given the large number of highly-polluting cars already on the roads,” said Samo Jereb, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the Briefing Paper. “Even though more than ten million vehicles have been recalled so far, the limited data available indicates that the impact on NOx emissions has been small.”

    The new NOx test has led to a significant reduction of NOx emissions by new diesel cars, say the auditors, but the impact could have been even greater if the initially proposed temporary limit of 128 mg/km had been adopted, instead of 168 mg/km.

    The auditors’ view is that improvements will take some time to become apparent and they identify a number of issues:

  • The effectiveness of market surveillance will depend on the implementation by member states;
  • although the legislation provides for better monitoring of the gap between laboratory figures and CO2/NOx emissions on the road, manufacturers may find new ways to adapt their vehicle emissions during the tests,  and;
  • the newly-introduced independent third-party testing may be limited due to the high costs involved.

A Briefing Paper is not an audit report, but a review based on publicly available information and the auditors’ work in the policy area.

The ECA’s briefing paper The EU’s response to the 'dieselgate' scandal is available on the ECA website in 23 EU languages.

Air quality

Powering a climate-neutral economy: Commission sets out plans for the energy system of the future and clean hydrogen, and launches the #EuropeanCleanHydrogenAlliance

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To become climate-neutral by 2050, Europe needs to transform its energy system, which accounts for 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. The EU strategies for energy system integration and hydrogen, adopted today (8 July), will pave the way towards a more efficient and interconnected energy sector, driven by the twin goals of a cleaner planet and a stronger economy.

The two strategies present a new clean energy investment agenda, in line with the Commission’s Next Generation EU recovery package and the European Green Deal. The planned investments have the potential to stimulate the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis. They create European jobs and boost our leadership and competitiveness in strategic industries, which are crucial to Europe’s resilience.

To help deliver on this Strategy, the Commission is launching today the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance with industry leaders, civil society, national and regional ministers and the European Investment Bank. The Alliance will build up an investment pipeline for scaled-up production and will support demand for clean hydrogen in the EU. The alliance will be built on the principles of cooperation, inclusiveness and transparency. The focus of the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance is on renewable hydrogen, complemented during a transition period by low-carbon hydrogen with very ambitious CO2 emission reductions compared to fossil-based hydrogen.The European Clean Hydrogen Alliance launch event will be live streamed here at 16h00.

More information

Follow the press conference by Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Timmermans and Commissioner for Energy Simson live on EbS.

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Air quality

50 airports now #CarbonNeutral in Europe

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Ahead of the COP25 due to kick off in Santiago de Chile next month, European airport trade body ACI EUROPE today gives an update on the progress airports have made to deliver on their commitment to reach 100 carbon neutral airports by 20301. This commitment is a major interim step towards their Net Zero by 2050 vision & pledge2 - which is part of the wider Sustainability Strategy for Airports3 launched last June by ACI EUROPE.

With the successful upgrade today of six Lapland Airports4 operated by Finavia (the Finnish airport operator) to Level 3+ Neutrality of the global CO2 management standard, Airport Carbon Accreditation, there are now 50 carbon neutral airports in Europe5.

ACI EUROPE Director General Olivier Jankovec said: "Just 3 years after committing to 100 carbon neutral airports by 2030, the European airport industry is now halfway through to achieve that goal. The 50 airports that have become carbon neutral under Airport Carbon Accreditation welcome over one-fourth of the continent’s passenger traffic - with a mix of major hubs & smaller regional airports amongst them.”

Carbon neutrality currently represents the highest level of carbon management performance under Airport Carbon Accreditation. In order to reach it, airports need to reduce CO2 emissions from those sources under their control as much as possible, and compensate for the remaining residual emissions with investment in high-quality carbon offsets. Carbon neutral airports at Level 3+ of the Airport Carbon Accreditation have to provide evidence of undertaking all the actions required by the programme (mapping their emissions, reducing them and engaging operational stakeholders on the airport site to do the same), before investing in carbon offsets.

Jankovec added: "While the net zero concept does not allow for offsetting, reaching carbon neutrality first allows airports to grow towards more ambitious CO2 management & restrictions in a progressive way. With the commitment of the European airport industry to reach Net Zero CO2 emissions under their control by 2050 an absolute priority, Europe’s airports continue their steady pace to reach the goalposts between their current carbon management level and the ambitious objective ahead."

Niclas Svenningsen, who heads the Climate Neutral Now initiative at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat in Bonn, Germany commented: « We are delighted to see more and more airports in Europe achieving their hard-won carbon neutrality each year. We note that the momentum airports have created through their decade-long progress within Airport Carbon Accreditation has been further galvanized by the growing urgency to respond to the Climate Emergency. »

He added: « Europe’s airports continue to be an example to follow in the field of non-state action to address the climate emergency. While having their eyes on the big goal of reaching Net Zero carbon emissions from their operations by 2050, they continue their incremental work to reduce their climate impact. This, is exactly the kind of industry leadership we need to address the daunting and unprecedented challenge that Climate Change represents.”

1View the pledge here.

2Learn more about the Net Zero by 2050 commitment here. 

3Download your copy of the ACI EUROPE Sustainability Strategy here.

4Lapland Airports: Enontekiö (ENF), Ivalo (IVL), Kemi-Tornio (KEM), Kittilä (KTT), Kuusamo (KAO) and Rovaniemi (RVN)

5Download the full list of carbon neutral airports here:
The full list of carbon neutral airports.pdf

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has estimated that aviation’s total CO2 emissions account for 2% of global emissions’ impact on climate change. Of that figure, airports’ own operations only account for up to 5%.

Airport Carbon Accreditation is the only global standard for carbon management at airports. Its aim is to encourage and enable airports to reduce their emissions. Within its framework, airports can become accredited at four progressively ambitious levels of accreditation: Mapping, Reduction, Optimization and Neutrality. 

It is independently administered, institutionally-endorsed and has already won praise from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the European Commission (EC).

Originally developed and launched by ACI EUROPE in June 2009, Airport Carbon Accreditation was extended to airports in Asia-Pacific, in November 2011 (in partnership with ACI Asia-Pacific) and to African airports in June 2013, (in partnership with ACI Africa), North American airports in September 2014 (in partnership with ACI-NA) and airports in Latin America & Caribbean in December 2014 (in partnership with ACI-LAC).

To find out which airports are certified & their level of certification, click here.

ACI EUROPE is the European region of Airports Council International (ACI), the only worldwide professional association of airport operators. ACI EUROPE represents over 500 airports in 45 European countries. Our members facilitate over 90% of commercial air traffic in Europe: 2.3 billion passengers, 21.2 million tonnes of freight and 25.7 million aircraft movements in 2018. In response to the Climate Emergency, in June 2019 our members committed to achieve net zero carbon emissions for operations under their control by 2050, without offsetting.

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Air quality

Clarkson calls eco warrior #GretaThunberg 'spoilt brat'

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Jeremy Clarkson (pictured) has weighed into eco-activist Greta Thunberg, calling her a “spoilt brat”.

Greta, 16, told the United Nations her childhood had been ruined by global changing.

She said: “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.

“Yet you all come to us for hope.

“How dare you.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

Clarkson said: “How dare you sail to America on a carbon fibre yacht that you didn’t build which cost £15million, that you didn’t earn, and which has a back-up diesel engine that you didn’t mention.

“We gave you mobile phones and laptops and the internet.

“We created the social media you use every day and we run the banks that pay for it all.

“So how dare you stand there and lecture us, you spoilt brat.”

He claimed science will solve the earth’s problem “not scowling and having screaming ab-dabs every five minutes”.

He concluded: “So be a good girl, shut up and let them get on with it.”

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