* Commission to publish air quality draft law this year
* Commission working on tougher diesel testing standards
* WHO has linked diesel emissions to cancer
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Jan 8 The European Union must cut
emissions from diesel vehicles as part of its efforts to reduce
air pollution, which is causing close to half a million
premature deaths per year, EU officials said on Tuesday.
The European Commission says it will publish legislative
proposals to improve air quality in the second half of this
As well as a law on air quality, it has already put forward
tougher vehicle emissions standards and is introducing stricter
vehicle testing standards.
The aim is to ensure levels recorded during tests accurately
reflect pollution levels during daily use and not just in a
"We will have to address the issue of the diesel car," Janez
Potocnik, EU environment commissioner, told a Brussels
conference on Tuesday. "Compliance is crucially dependent on
reducing real world emissions from diesel cars."
The European Union has a particularly high number of diesel
vehicles, because tax advantages have in many cases made it
cheaper than petrol.
The cancer risk linked to diesel vehicles, however, was
underlined last year by a World Health Organization study.
"Diesel vehicles are more efficient, but they emit a higher
level of nitrogen dioxide than regular vehicles," Jacqueline
McGlade, executive director of EU body the European Environment
Agency, told the conference.
"All subsidies for diesel should be phased out."
The Commission has estimated that nitrogen dioxide, together
with other pollutants such as minute specks referred to as
particulate matter, which are generated by smoke as well as
traffic, cause roughly 420,000 early deaths in the European
Union per year.
Apart from posing a cancer risk, air pollution leads to lung
and cardiovascular disease.
Diesel passenger cars produce more than 21 times as many
PM10 (larger size particulate matter) emissions in grams and
more than twice the nitrogen oxides than gasoline per mile
travelled, according to a written answer to the British House of
Parliament in late 2011.
The European Environment Agency has said comparisons are
complex, given that the newest diesel vehicles have very low
emissions of particulate matter, but that the legacy fleet is
still a major issue.
ENTOURAGE OF EFFECTS
McGlade referred to a "whole entourage of effects" linked to
air pollution including reduced crop yield, implications for the
development of unborn babies and lost working days.
The European Union's largest industrial facilities, although
compliant with existing EU law, cost between 102 billion ($133.6
billion) and 169 billion euros - or 200 to 300 euros per citizen
- in 2009 in terms of costs to health and the environment,
Attempting to pre-empt any criticism of the cost of tighter
regulation, Potocnik cited heightened air quality concerns in
the United States and China and predicted "enormous demand for
(sustainable) products and processes".
"Let's not kill our industry with kindness," he said. "Air
quality is not only an environmental objective but also an
Potocnik said the majority of the 27 EU member states are
infringing EU air quality so far.
An internal meeting of the EU Commissioners on Wednesday
will hold a preliminary debate on clean transport.