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ClientEarth launches legal action to avert another Dieselgate

New rules which allow car manufacturers to keep their emissions control systems secret from the public risk another Dieselgate scandal, according to ClientEarth.

The environmental law organisation has launched legal action against the European Commission challenging the new rules and attempting to force the car industry to explain to the public how the devices they use in their vehicles affect its emissions on the road as opposed to in test conditions.

The EU Commission Regulation in question requires car manufacturers to explain what effect any variation to the emission control system has on emissions to Type Approval Authorities, the authorities in an EU Member State that grant technical approval for vehicles to go to market.

In the UK this is the Vehicle Certification Agency.

However, the rules, which came into effect last month, allow this information to remain a secret between the manufacturer and the same discredited authorities which in the past have systematically failed to investigate excessive emissions and to keep the car industry on the straight and narrow. The public will be in the dark about emissions which have significant effects on their health.

ClientEarth CEO 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.”

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 environmental lawyers believe the Regulation to be against EU access to environmental information law and against the international Aarhus Convention, which is designed to ensure transparency and public access to justice in environmental matters.

The new Regulation acknowledges that ‘The revelation related to the use of defeat devices in diesel vehicles and the subsequent national investigations have highlighted the need to strengthen the enforcement of the rules on defeat devices’.

However, by keeping any revelations by manufacturers secret and by preventing independent control on the activities of national authorities, the rules are leaving the way open to another Dieselgate scandal.

Thornton added: “Air pollution has been linked to heart and lung disease and can trigger heart and asthma attacks. With people’s health at stake, we cannot allow the car industry to hide behind this smokescreen, we must have transparency.”

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Lorenzo Cafaro

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