Germany was unable to assert its demands for the planned Euro 7 emissions standard at an EU ministerial meeting. After a vote on Monday in Brussels, the EU states do not want to include stricter limits for pollutants or exceptions for e-fuels in the planned rules, according to information from the EU states and the Spanish EU Council Presidency.

The revision of the limit values ​​is based on a proposal from the EU Commission to regulate pollutant emissions from vehicles such as cars, vans and trucks more strictly than before. Such pollutants include, for example, nitrogen oxides. According to EU diplomats, the EU states fell short of the Commission’s ambitions. The EU states announced that the same limit values ​​as under the existing Euro 6 regulation should apply to private cars and vans.

“The draft, which has been weakened several times, does not go beyond the previous regulations in terms of many of the requirements for air pollutants,” criticized Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens). Germany “rejected the project for good reasons”. However, the Federal Republic was outvoted by a majority of the other EU states. In the course of the negotiations, the Commission’s originally ambitious proposal was significantly weakened, said Lemke.

What is new in both the Commission’s proposal and that of the EU states is that substances harmful to health such as fine dust, which can be caused by tire wear or braking, should also be regulated in the future. This means that electric cars and hydrogen vehicles would also be affected by the rules.

Criticism from environmental associations

According to two studies by the European Environment Agency and the so-called Joint Research Center, road traffic was responsible for 39 percent of harmful NOx emissions (nitrogen oxides) in 2018 – 47 percent in cities – and 11 percent of total PM10 emissions (fine dust).

After the meeting, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton emphasized that the aim was better air, a competitive industry and vehicles at affordable prices. “We know that this is also an important point,” said the Frenchman.

The European industry association Acea fundamentally welcomed the position of the EU states. This is an improvement compared to the Commission’s proposal. The industry is ready to meet the challenges of climate change, but it should be ensured that cars remain affordable and companies remain competitive.

However, there is vehement criticism from environmental associations. “Dirty air causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths in Europe every year and road traffic is a major cause of this,” said Marissa Reiserer, Greenpeace transport expert. The EU states gave in to the short-term interests of the auto industry.

The Green MEP Michael Bloss made a similar statement. The EU states would have missed the opportunity to protect people’s health. He described the fact that there are no exception rules for e-fuels, i.e. synthetically produced fuels, as a setback for Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP).

The position of the EU Parliament has not yet been determined

Jens Gieseke, the transport policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU group in the EU Parliament, welcomed the fact that the EU states have “agreed on a realistic approach”. The federal government is once again embarrassed and isolated, said the CDU politician, with a view to the fact that the Environment Ministry has not been able to enforce stricter limits and the Transport Ministry has not been able to enforce any exceptions for e-fuels.

The background to the push for e-fuel exceptions is the dispute over the end of new cars that run on gasoline or diesel in 2035. The EU agreed on the ban last year. In the federal government, the FDP in particular pushed for cars fueled exclusively with e-fuels to be exempt from the so-called combustion engine ban. This should be made possible, among other things, via the Euro 6 and Euro 7 emissions standards. According to the FDP, more legal certainty for possible exceptions to the ban on combustion engines could have been created at this ministerial meeting.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport said that a proposal for a regulation on the Euro 6 emissions standard will now be discussed in the responsible committee at EU level on October 4th. “The federal government is currently examining the details of the proposal and is in the process of voting,” it said. The EU Commission will continue to “consistently pursue” the path of allowing internal combustion engine vehicles fueled exclusively with e-fuels to continue to be approved after 2035.

With the positioning of the EU states, the new Euro 7 emissions standard has not yet been fully negotiated. The EU Parliament, which is also involved in the legislation, must also agree on a position and, in a final step, a compromise must be found between the demands of the Parliament and the EU states.