Environment: Proposals are under discussion which will implement the conclusions of the Auto Oil Programme, a strategy to identify the technical foundations for a more integrated approach to reducing vehicle emissions

United Kingdom
So far, three directives have been proposed prescribing new emission limits for specified classes of vehicles and associated testing and on-board diagnostic requirements. These concern passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and heavy duty vehicles. A fourth directive would set new fuel specifications for petrol and diesel, including limits for sulphur, benzene and other aromatic compounds. This legislation would also require the development of alternative fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas and biofuels. The new standards prescribed by these directives would apply from 2000.

The directives are currently at different stages in the adoption process. Common Positions have been adopted on the fuel quality and passenger car emissions directives and these have now had their second reading in the European Parliament. As the Parliament has reinstated many of the amendments put forward at the first reading that were not included in the Common Positions, it is very likely that the Council will not accept these and the proposals will go to conciliation. The directives are on the agenda for the March 1998 Environment Council meeting. The light commercial vehicles proposal has just completed the first reading stage. The legislation on emissions from heavy goods vehicles was only proposed by the Commission at the beginning of December 1997. It is likely that the adoption of these proposals will be given a high priority by the EU institutions.

A fifth development concerns the adoption of a negotiated agreement between the Commission and the vehicle industry sector on a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars. A 1995 Communication set a target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars to 120g/km by 2005, that is consumption of 5 litres of petrol per 100 km or 4.5 litres of diesel per 100 km. The vehicle industry considers that this target is unrealistic although the Commission recognises that the objective cannot be reached by an industry agreement alone. The Environment Commissioner, Ritt Bjerregaard, has threatened to draft a directive if an agreement is not negotiated by mid March 1998. The European Automobile Manufacturers Association has submitted new proposals to reduce emissions to 140g/km by 2008. It is not yet clear whether these will be accepted by the Commission.

The Commission intends to propose two other pieces of legislation to support the negotiated agreement during the first half of 1998. A directive would establish a standardised labelling system for new cars to indicate their fuel efficiency with the aim of developing a market for such vehicles and a decision would require data on the fuel efficiency of registered vehicles to be provided by regulatory authorities to the Commission. This would then be used to compile information on carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles throughout the EU.