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Dieselgate one year on

07.10.2016 | Anonymous | Roads

The health impacts of dirty diesel emissions, and the need for governments to take action, are as important as ever, yet progress is painfully slow.

ClientEarth are heading back to court to challenge the UK Government on cleaning up air pollution, while the Mayor of London and other city leaders are still developing plans for low emission zones.

One year on from "Dieselgate", this guest blog from Greg Archer, Transport & Environment's Director of Clean Vehicles, looks at Transport & Environment's campaign and the role EU regulators should play.

It’s one year on since Dieselgate, the scandalous revelation that VW were deliberately cheating the lab tests designed to control lethal emissions from their vehicles. Since then, we’ve learned that VW’s transgressions are only the tip of the iceberg.

Shockingly, all diesel brands in Europe are more polluting than VW. Research from Transport & Environment has found that not one single brand always complies with the latest air pollution limits (‘Euro 6’) for diesel cars and vans in real-world driving, and there are around 29 million dirty diesel vehicles on Europe’s roads. While in theory, there are common standards across the EU, in practice, national testing labs favour their home country marques, manufacturers prepare exemplary ‘golden vehicles’ for testing and different firms choose to switch off emission controls in widely varying environmental conditions. 

Dirty diesel is the main cause of our air pollution crisis, and cities across the UK are considering Clean Air Zones and Low Emission Zones to tackle it. But with over 90% of vehicles more polluting on the road than in the lab, how can we trust the emission standards, even without “defeat devices” being in place? The knock-on effects are costly and long-term: how can transport projects properly evaluate their environmental impacts if the baseline data is false? Imagine if this scandal were in food or pharmaceuticals: everyone would be up in arms, with daily media coverage and probably market bans in place.

Dieselgate has prompted some small steps to improvement, including a tightening of testing rules and a recall of VWs for refit (although one that’s painfully slow and apparently impacting on the performance and CO2 emissions of the vehicle without compensating owners). But overall the picture is the same as a year ago: massive health impacts, consumers and communities betrayed, regulators and industry slow to respond.

MEPs are considering further action, and alongside Campaign for Better Transport and Greenpeace, we’ve given evidence to their panel.

There’s a neat TRICK to cleaning up diesel: Transparency, Rigour, Independence, Consistency and Knowledge.

We have to replace the compromised testing authorities and obsolete testing systems at the heart of Dieselgate. That means truly independent auditing of national regulators, and rigorous testing of vehicles in use.

We have a clear proposal for action, an independent regulator to oversee vehicle emissions testing and restore confidence.

As with drugs in sport, when the rules are broken by some, the whole system risks a loss of trust. It’s time for MEPs from across Europe to step up and take the action that’s long overdue.