vintage dashboard oil pressure gauge

Dieselgate, two years on: diesels “worse for climate”, not just health

A new report from EU transport policy experts debunks the argument that diesel cars trump petrol cars on their climate credentials.

Diesel: the true (dirty) story, published by Transport & Environment (T&E), says that over its lifecycle, a diesel vehicle emits several tonnes more carbon than a petrol equivalent. This is due to a higher-intensity oil refining process, a more complex production line, and typically more miles travelled over its lifetime.

The findings undermine the well-weathered argument that diesel engines are the climate-friendly option.

ClientEarth clean air lawyer Anna Heslop said: “It’s time to accept that diesel cars are not the environmentally friendly solution drivers have been assured they were. This report indicates that diesels are not only a disaster for public health, but are not helping us hit our climate targets either.”

Diesel’s dominion in Europe

The report calls Europe a “diesel island”, attributing its “dieselisation” in part to outdated taxation policies: diesel in the EU, the report says, is taxed 10-40% less at the pump than petrol.

Also named and blamed is the inadequate response to the emissions scandal, which broke two years ago. New diesel vehicles are still allowed to emit far greater quantities of nitrogen oxides than their petrol counterparts. Meanwhile, the industry is not being pushed for more robust (and costly) fixes to over-emitting vehicles.

Anna added: “Diesels dominate the market because policy was put in place to make sure they did. We now need similarly ambitious policy to move us away from diesel and into a new era of clean transport – and to help drivers who bought diesels in good faith to move to cleaner alternatives.

“Two years on from the Dieselgate scandal, we’ve still seen no meaningful action from the government in the UK. We should be seeing vehicles which cheat emissions standards fixed, consistent ‘clean car’ labelling based on real-world emissions – and all of this overseen by independent regulators with the clout to enforce the laws to protect our health.”

T&E also warns against second-hand ‘dirty’ diesels being pushed into smaller economies, perpetuating Europe’s diesel problem.

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