EU members 'forced Government to back down on emissions'
Published 31/10/2015 | 02:30
The Government has admitted it backed down on plans to slash toxic diesel-car emissions in the face of severe pressure from some EU member states.
Instead of tougher rules on what engines can emit, it 'reluctantly' compromised and supported a watered-down plan to allow diesels to emit more than double the legal limit.
The admission of compromise - made to the Irish Independent by the Department of Environment - followed accusations the Coalition is being two-faced about the health risk posed by diesel emissions.
Despite ministers here condemning Volkswagen for breaching trust and limits by using cheating software, the Coalition has now rowed in behind new EU rules that will allow cars to exceed legal levels of NOx by 110pc up to 2020.
After that, they have given permission for vehicles to emit 50pc over the legal limit for an indefinite period. That is still a big reduction on current levels where some diesel vehicles emit four to five times more nitrous oxides than the so-called official limit of 80grammes/km.
The new regulations were thrashed out on Wednesday after hours of talks produced a compromise deal. That diluted a proposal from the European Commission which would have allowed NOx emissions to exceed limits by just 60pc until late 2019 and 20pc after that.
The apparent leniency of regulation, coming so soon after the EU's widespread condemnation of Volkswagen, sparked strong criticism. Dublin MEP Nessa Childers asked: "I wonder why the Irish Government supported this stance. Are they in awe or in hock to Germany's leadership against proper enforcement of emissions rules?"
A Department of Environment spokesman said Ireland had expressed its views on the need for urgent action in this sector, and would have preferred the original, stricter rules to be brought in. "However, in the interests of reaching an agreement, Ireland (reluctantly) supported the compromise proposal as it is believed that further delay and political inaction would be even more detrimental to consumer confidence and to the environment," the spokesman said.