The UK government has come under fire after it emerged it voted in favour of an EU deal to double limits for deadly pollution from diesel cars at a secretive meeting in Brussels two weeks ago. The news came as a response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request tabled by Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder.
MEPs and campaigners have criticised the move as a sop to carmakers that will lead to thousands more premature deaths across the UK. Recent research has found that the toxic gas NO2, largely emitted by diesel vehicles, causes an estimated 23,500 deaths in the UK each year.
Under an agreement reached by EU national governments on 29th October, cars will be able to emit twice the legal limit of NO2 from 2019 and up to 50% more from 2021. Carmakers have pushed for the weaker emissions limits to help them meet new stricter tests, known as Real Driving Emissions (RDE), that reflect actual emissions on the road. This is despite evidence showing the technology to meet the stricter tests is available and costs just between £70 and £212 per vehicle and that carmakers have managed to meet much tougher diesel emission standards in the US.
The deal was voted on behind closed doors with no information made public on what position each government took. However, in response to a FOI request by Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, a government official admitted the UK had voted in favour of the deal.
The news comes as opposition is mounting in the European Parliament to reject the proposal. MEPs have the power to raise an objection to the deal within the next 3 months, after which a majority could vote for it to be scrapped and for the European Commission to come up with a more ambitious proposal.
"It is shameful that the UK government voted to weaken limits on deadly diesel emissions.
"The VW scandal should have been a wake-up call, but instead Conservative ministers are continuing to turn a blind eye to this invisible killer.
"MEPs are rightly preparing to reject this disgraceful deal.
"The technology to cut diesel pollution in our cities is already there, but we need tougher tests to ensure it is implemented."
Freedom of Information (FOI) request