Select Committee on European Scrutiny Second 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
Department: Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Basis of consideration: SEM of 8 August 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-vi (2000-01), paragraph 6 (14 February 2001)
To be discussed in Council: End of October 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but further information requested


16.1 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,[42] 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[43] 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).

16.2 Against this background, the Commission proposed in December 2000 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 immediate aim is to set emission limits for nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons, though the Commission considers 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 better than the standard in one year a "credit" which may be subtracted from the following year's emissions average).

16.3 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.

16.4 In its Explanatory Memorandum of 5 February 2001, the Government said that large reductions in emissions from small off-road engines are feasible because these are in widespread use but currently unregulated. It therefore expected the first proposal — which will harmonise with existing US legislation — to make a "useful" contribution to reducing harmful emissions (notably of hydrocarbons) and in helping to achieve the UK's air quality targets. The second proposal would eventually reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulates.

16.5 The Government added that it was considering the detailed implications, including the costs and benefits, and would be submitting a Regulatory Impact Assessment. It also pointed out that the equivalent measures in the US for small petrol engines had 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 said it would also be looking at the implications of the proposed averaging and banking arrangements.

16.6 In their Report of 14 February 2001, our predecessors noted that there were certain parallels between this proposal and one they had considered earlier dealing with emissions from recreational craft. As with the latter proposal, they said that they intended to reserve judgement until they had received a Regulatory Impact Assessment.

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 8 August 2001

16.7 In his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 8 August 2001, the Minister of State at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr John Spellar) has provided the promised Regulatory Impact Assessment. In the case of the extension of controls to small petrol engines, this confirms that, when compliant machines have replaced those in operation at present, there would eventually be an 86% reduction in annual UK emissions of hydrocarbons from this source (from 44,000 to 4,500 tonnes), equivalent to an 8.7% reduction in such emissions from all UK road transport, together with a saving in carbon dioxide emissions of 169,000 tonnes. Engines of this description are not manufactured in the UK, but UK manufacturers of equipment using imported engines would need to comply, and are expected to pass on to their customers the compliance cost. The latter could be as high as £37 million in net present value terms, equivalent to £3 million annually amortised over the 18 year period needed to replace all the existing machinery. However, the Assessment points out that the costs are likely in practice to be considerably lower, partly because many manufacturers market globally and are thus already complying with the stricter US standards, and partly because the improved technology needed to meet the more stringent emission limits is expected to result in improved fuel consumption. As a result, the Assessment suggests that overall there could in the long term be cost savings to consumers.

16.8 In the case of mobile constant-speed diesel engines, the Assessment envisages a reduction of 5,630 tonnes in nitrogen oxides emissions, and of 1,160 tonnes of particulates, equivalent to 27% and 58% respectively of current emissions levels. Compliance costs for consumers are estimated at £192 million, equivalent to an annual cost of £19 million amortised over the 16 years needed to replace all current machines. There is, however, unlikely to be any impact on fuel consumption, and overall the typical unit cost increase for a diesel generator set is put at around 8-9%.

16.9 In summary, the Assessment says that the reduction in emissions arising from this proposal would be small, but increasingly significant as emissions from other sources also decline. Even if there were to be no fuel cost savings for small petrol engines, the proposals are seen as highly cost-effective, though there are likely to be certain enforcement costs at machine manufacturers' premises, and the Assessment also points out that, if the averaging and banking arrangements described in paragraph 16.2 above were to be adopted, there could be difficulties in verifying a manufacturers' declared production figures.


16.10 We are grateful to the Minister for this further, and largely reassuring, information, and, in the light of what he has said, we would not want to stand in the way of his signifying political agreement in the Council to the proposal if, as he has anticipated, this is sought at the end of this month. However, in clearing the proposal, we recall the statement in the Government's Explanatory Memorandum of 5 February 2001 that it would be looking at the implications of the proposed averaging and banking arrangements. Apart from the possible enforcement difficulties mentioned in paragraph 16.9 above, the Minister's Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum is largely silent on this aspect of the proposal, and we would be glad to know what further light may have been shed on it by the Government's intended examination.

42   OJ No. L 59, 27.2.98, p.1. Back

43   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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