The mayors of 20 European cities including Paris, Madrid and Athens have attacked the European Union for allowing a loophole in diesel cars’ pollution limits, just months after the VW emissions scandal.
MEPs in February failed to veto a proposal that watered down real world tests on limits for NOx pollution emitted by new diesel cars, a move which the mayors said was unfair and wrong, and stopped them from protecting citizens’ health.
In a letter published in Le Monde on Wednesday, the mayors write: “How can we protect the health of our fellow citizens when the European Union has rubber-stamped a permit to pollute, at the expense of public health?
“What can we say to parents whose children are suffering from acute respiratory disorders, or to elderly people and to the most vulnerable? Should we tell them that their government has prioritised the health of the automotive industry over their own?”
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The signatories include the mayors of Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Copenhagen, Oslo, Lisbon, Stockholm, Vienna, Warsaw, Athens, Amsterdam, but not Berlin, Rome and London. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has argued he has acted on pollution but the city is still expected to be in breach of European NO2 limits until 2025 and an estimated 9,500 people die early each year because of the capital’s dirty air.
The European motoring trade body and European governments have backed the real world emissions test proposal, which will allow NOx emissions to exceed limits by more than double from 2017 and up to half from 2020.
“We believe that this decision is unfair and wrong,” the mayors said. “It is unacceptable to introduce emissions thresholds, only to allow them to be violated. It cannot be right to impose a duty upon public authorities to comply with air pollution standards, while at the same time giving the automotive industry the green light to infringe them.”
The mayors appealed to European governments to use all their means to ensure air pollution standards are applied consistently across industries.