No compromise on air quality

Written by Cécile Nourigat on 13 June 2016 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

EU and national policymakers need to place more emphasis on the use of alternative fuels, argues Cécile Nourigat.

UK Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin made the headlines earlier this week after saying that the current low tax on diesel has caused a dramatic rise in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in major cities, and therefore should be "looked at".

The initial decision to create incentives for drivers to choose diesel vehicles was made by former UK chancellor and Prime Minister Gordon Brown back in 2001 in the aftermath of the Kyoto Protocol, as a solution to cut CO2 emissions from transport and thus mitigate global warming.

In the wake of the recent Dieselgate emissions scandal, air pollution caused by road transport is gaining more attention. Is this a paradigm shift from a climate focused policy to more attention being given to air quality? This is still unclear. However, it means that leaders now realise the unintended consequences of past policy decisions.


RELATED CONTENT


Trade-offs are also taking place at the European level. Representatives from the European Parliament, Council and European Commission met on 8 June to negotiate future national ceilings for a number of pollutants. These will serve as a basis for the development of a wide range of measures at national and local level for the attainment of the agreed objectives.

Again, diverging views were expressed on the level of ambition needed regarding the EU's future air quality strategy. Similarly, a conservative approach was taken by EU member states when approving the new real driving emissions requirements, allowing diesel cars to significantly exceed NOx standards in real life until 2020.

Knowing the impact of air pollution on people’s health, we believe that the debate should focus less on trade-offs and more on solutions to quickly roll-out sustainable solutions for transport.

A number of alternative fuels have the potential to bring important gains, in both the short and long terms, and therefore should be promoted.

LPG, also called Autogas when used as transport fuel, produces far fewer of the harmful emissions that contribute to environmental and health problems, than traditional road fuels.

Tests in laboratories have proven that Autogas vehicles, on average, emit 96 per cent less NOx than diesel vehicles. Contrary to diesel, whose fumes have been classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation since 2013, Autogas cars generate almost no particulate matter or black carbon (soot).

More recently, research on real driving emissions measured through a portable system showed that Autogas cars in normal driving conditions emit up to 19 per cent less CO2 up to  97per cent less CO (Carbon Monoxide), and 96 per cent less small particles than their gasoline equivalent.

Autogas, with 7.5 million vehicles in the EU served by more than 30,000 filling stations, is already widely available. It is therefore a solution to effectively reduce NOx pollution in the short term.

Other alternatives will also come into play in the future, but LPG is a low-hanging fruit that can deliver significant, cost-efficient emission cuts today.

Cities across Europe are already taking initiatives to tackle the problem at its source, in response to public opinion pressure and regulatory initiatives aimed at promoting air quality.

These include the establishment of low emissions zones, congestion charges, or simply banning the most polluting vehicles from city centres. In Spain for example, a new label defines which categories of vehicles should be favoured, and similar initiatives are now seen in a number of European capitals.

It is critical that such schemes reward alternative fuels, including LPG, in line with their proven environmental benefits.

Our message to European leaders is clear: it is time to put more emphasis on alternative fuels, in a technology neutral way, to effectively tackle air pollution in cities. The future starts today.

About the author

Cécile Nourigat is Autogas Manager at the European LPG Association (AEGPL)

Share this page

Tags

Categories

Partner content

This content is published by the Parliament Magazine on behalf of our partners.

Related Articles

Fertilising regulation: Balancing human health and innovation
10 July 2017

Updating the fertilizers regulation must not be used as an excuse for a backdoor revision of the nitrates directive, warns Marc Tarabella.

EU must break down barriers to free movement of innovative fertilizers
10 July 2017

Europe must break down barriers to the free movement of innovative fertilizers, writes Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz.

Issue 459 | 10 July 2017
7 July 2017

Michał Boni Interview, Estonian EU Council Presidency Preview, EU-Cuba trade, Towards a Digital Single Market, Antimicrobial Resistance, Fertilizers Regulation, Happiness and Wellbeing, New Skills...

Related Partner Content

How can lightweight materials such as aluminium help the EU meet its CO2 emissions reduction targets?
18 April 2017

EU legislation needs to recognise the advantages lightweight materials can offer in reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles, write Patrik Ragnarsson and Dieter Höll.

Sustainable renewable fuels key to meeting EU's 2030 energy and climate objectives
24 October 2016

Sustainable renewable fuels are key to meeting the EU's ambitious 2030 energy and climate objectives, writes Malcolm McDowell.

GMOs: Time to stand up for EU law and innovation
2 June 2016

MEPs have the chance to support innovation and evidence-based authorisation procedures when they meet next week in Strasbourg, says Pedro Narro Sanchez.