Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twelfth 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: Second SEM of 7 January 2002
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-vi (2000-01), paragraph 6 (14 February 2001), and HC 152-ii (2001-02), paragraph 16 (17 October 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared (decision reported on 17 October 2001), but further information requested


  12.1  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,[30] which establishes mandatory limits for emissions from compression ignition (diesel) engines in non-road machinery with a power output between 18 kW and 560 kW. However, the Commission has noted that, as a result of other initiatives affecting road vehicles, emissions from the latter source are set to decrease by about 50% by 2010, thereby increasing the relative importance of those 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[31] 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).

  12.2  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. 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).

  12.3  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 proposal — which will harmonise with existing US legislation — to make a "useful" contribution to reducing harmful emissions and in helping to achieve the UK's air quality targets. In noting this in their Report of 14 February 2001, our predecessors said that they intended to reserve judgement until they had received a Regulatory Impact Assessment.

  12.4  The promised Assessment was provided in a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 8 August 2001 from the Minister of State at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr John Spellar), and its contents were summarised in paragraphs 16.7 and 16.8 of our Report of 17 October 2001. On the basis of that information, we cleared the proposal, but recalled that the Government had said earlier that it would be looking further at the implications of the proposed averaging and banking arrangements, whereas, apart from the possible enforcement difficulties mentioned in paragraph 16.9 of our Report, the Minister's Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum had been largely silent on this point. We therefore said that we would be glad to know what further light may have been shed on it by the Government's intended examination.

Second Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 7 January 2002

  12.5  In his Second Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 7 January 2002, the Minister says that, despite UK support for the banking and averaging scheme, both the Council and the European Parliament voted for its deletion, on the grounds that it was administratively complex, potentially difficult to enforce, and favoured large manufacturers. He adds that this will require all models of engine to meet emission limits, which could pose problems where the use of hand-held two-stroke engines is needed, since this could only be achieved at present through the use of oxidation catalysts, whose weight would create problems for users, and whose high exhaust temperatures would increase the risk of fire in dry conditions.

  12.6  The Minister says that the UK has accordingly argued that alternative flexibilities are needed in place of averaging and banking to prevent the affected products disappearing from the market, and that both the Council's Common Position and the European Parliament's amendments aim to address this issue. The former would require the Commission to review the ability of hand-held machines to comply with the limits, and to set derogations of up to five years where appropriate: the latter would exempt a range of such machines from the measure entirely. Since the manufacturers have suggested that a five-year derogation would be sufficient to allow them to develop alternative technologies to allow two-stroke engines to meet the emission limits, the Minister comments that the Parliament's amendments go further than is necessary, whilst the Common Position, although offering the potential to grant the derogations needed by the industry, does not guarantee these.


  12.7  We are grateful to the Minister for this further information, and have noted the present, somewhat unsatisfactory position. However, whilst he says that the dates for the European Parliament's second reading are not yet known, he gives no indication of whether, or how, he sees the situation being resolved. We would, therefore, like to be kept informed of any further developments in good time.

30   OJ No. L 59, 27.2.98, p.1. Back

31   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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