Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report


COM(00) 840

Draft Council Directive amending Directive 97/68/EC on emissions of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery.

Legal base: Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 18 December 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 19 December 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 17 January 2001
Department: Environment, Transport and the Regions
Basis of consideration: 5 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; awaiting Regulatory Impact Assessment


  6.1  In recent years, the Community has taken a number of measures to combat the adverse environmental and health effects of acidification and increases in ozone caused by emissions of gaseous pollutants and particulate matter. These include Directive 97/68/EC,[16] which establishes mandatory limits in two stages (in 1999, and between 2000 and 2003) for emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particulates from compression ignition (diesel) engines in non-road machinery with a power output between 18 kW and 560 kW. However, although this measure has begun to have some effect in reducing emissions, the Commission has noted that, as a result of other initiatives affecting road vehicles, notably the Auto Oil Programme, emissions from the latter source are set to decrease by about 50% by 2010, thereby increasing the relative importance of emissions from non-road machinery. It has also noted that, despite the various measures which have been taken, the Community is still likely to fall short of the objective set in its Fifth Environmental Action Programme that critical levels[17] of pollutants should not be exceeded. This is particularly so as regards ozone levels, where small petrol-driven engines (and especially the two-stroke variety) are an important source of two of the main precursors (nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons).

The current proposal

  6.2  Against this background, the Commission has proposed that Directive 97/68/EC should be extended to cover spark ignition (petrol) engines of less than 19 kW. As with the existing measures applying to diesel engines, these new provisions would set different limits according to the type and size of engine, and would be introduced in two stages - the first two years after the adoption of the amending Directive, and the second between 2005 and 2011. The Commission also makes the point that, although the immediate aim is to set emission limits from these sources of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, it may be necessary in due course to consider measures to deal with the emission of particulates. The proposal also contains two features found in the corresponding US legislation, but which are novel so far as the Community is concerned. These are averaging (which allows an engine manufacturer to certify engines with emissions levels above those laid down, provided the emissions level of its total annual production meets the required standard) and banking (which allows a manufacturer achieving an average in excess of the standard in one year a "credit" which may be subtracted from the following year's emissions average).

  6.3  The proposal would also include within the scope of the Directive diesel engines operated at constant speed, as for example in mobile generator sets, which the Commission says now account for a significant level of nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions relative to other off-road sources. This would not, however, come into effect until 2007, in order to allow manufacturers time to develop suitable engines, the Commission having been persuaded that it is harder to meet emission limits with such engines operating at relatively low speeds than with variable speed engines.

The Government's view

  6.4  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 5 February 2001, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty) says that large reductions in hydrocarbon emissions from small off-road engines are feasible because these are in widespread use but currently unregulated. He therefore expects that the first proposal — which will harmonise with existing US legislation — will make a "useful" contribution to reducing harmful emissions (with an annual reduction from 44,000 to 6,000 tonnes) and in helping to achieve the UK's air quality targets. (The second proposal would eventually reduce annual nitrogen oxide emissions from 21,100 to 15,500 tonnes, and those for particulates from 2,000 to 860 tonnes.)

  6.5  The Minister says that the Government is considering the detailed implications, including the costs and benefits, and will be submitting a Regulatory Impact Assessment. However, he points out that the equivalent measures in the US for small petrol engines increased the cost of ride-on lawnmowers by 1%, those of strimmers by up to 30%, and those of lawnmowers and chain saws by 15%, but that these figures might well be lower in the UK (where equipment costs tend to be higher) and could well be more than offset by savings in fuel consumption. The Government will also be looking at the implications of the proposed averaging and banking arrangements.


  6.6  There are certain parallels between this proposal and one which we considered recently dealing with emissions from recreational craft. As with that proposal, we intend to reserve judgement until we have received a Regulatory Impact Assessment.

16   OJ No. L 59, 27.2.98, p.1. Back

17   These are defined as concentrations in the atmosphere above which direct adverse effects in receptors, such as human beings, plants, ecosystems or materials, may occur. Back

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