ClientEarth launches legal action over vehicle test ‘transparency’

Environmental law campaign group ClientEarth has launched a legal action against the European Commission over vehicle type approval regulations which it has claimed “risk another dieselgate”.

Regulations which brought in requirements for more stringent testing of vehicle emissions in real-world conditions came into force this summer, which the Commission claims will “rebuild confidence in the performance of new cars”.

ClientEarth is challenging the European Commission over new regulations on vehicle emissions testing

The legislation (Commission Regulation 2017/1154) was updated to strengthen rules around vehicle testing to prevent car makers from using ‘defeat devices’ which provide a false reading of pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, emitted during laboratory emissions tests.

Upon introducing the legislation, the Commission’s Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen said: “The new emissions tests are a milestone in our ongoing work for cleaner and more sustainable cars over the coming years. But more remains to be done.

“The emissions scandal has shown that we need more independence in car testing, stronger market surveillance and the possibility for the Commission to intervene in case of wrongdoing.”


According to ClientEarth, the new regulation requires car manufacturers to explain what effect any variation to the emission control system has on emissions to Type Approval Authorities, such as the Vehicle Certification Agency in the UK.

However, ClientEarth has claimed that the regulations contain a ‘confidentiality’ provision, which allows information on variations to the emissions control system to remain private between the manufacturer and the authority.

The legal group says will leave the public “in the dark about emissions which have significant effects on their health”.

As a result, ClientEarth is calling for the confidentiality provision of Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/1154 to be annulled at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The group has claimed that the Regulation goes against EU access to environmental information law and the international Aarhus Convention, which is designed to ensure transparency and public access to justice in environmental matters.

The organisation’s chief executive, James Thornton, said: “The Dieselgate scandal showed us we couldn’t rely on these national approval authorities to protect the public and how damaging secretive behaviour by car manufacturers over emissions can be.

“The illegal levels of air pollution in towns and cities across this country are down in large part to diesel vehicles. A cosy stitch-up between manufacturers and the authorities will do nothing to reassure the public that the industry has learned its lesson after Dieselgate.”

Responding to the statement, a Commission spokesperson, said: “The Commission is very concerned about the health of EU citizens and has already taken robust action to limit the continuous exposure to harmful air pollution – and to ensure that citizens are well informed. We will defend our position in Court.”

ClientEarth has previously led a legal case against the UK government over its plans to tackle air pollution, which has resulted in the government being forced to redraw plans on two occasions.


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