Diesel machines law would worsen pollution and health problems

A proposed new EU law to cut emissions from some non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) will have the opposite effect, say campaigners, as it will encourage the use of bigger generating equipment.
Large diesel-powered equipment that emits black carbon and contributes to climate change and air pollution will not have to limit emissions of ultrafine particulate matter (PM) under the European Commission’s proposal, published last week.

The diesel machines covered include mobile generators, agricultural equipment such as combine-harvesters, construction machinery like cranes and cement mixers, engines used on railways and inland waterways and in outdoors equipment such as lawnmowers.

The proposal limits nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions for construction equipment and other machines with a power rating of less than 560 kilowatts (KW), but it exempts higher-polluting diesel engines over 560KW from having to filter the most dangerous forms of particulate matter by failing to set a limit for particulate numbers. T&E said this creates a market distortion in favour of bigger generating equipment that causes more pollution and health problems.

The World Health Organisation has said diesel exhaust is carcinogenic, while diesel machines are a major local source of urban air pollution near railways stations and construction sites. In London, for example, construction machines account for 15% of all PM emissions and 12% of NOx. Air pollution causes 100 million sick days and more than 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.

The EU first adopted a directive aimed at NRMM emissions in 1997 but, despite this and subsequent amendments, the sector continued to release increasingly dangerous levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) in the air.

The proposal is in line with the one that entered the Commission’s inter-service consultation process last spring. There are no particulate number (PN) limits for land non-road engines above 560KW, inland water vessels below 300KW, and rail locomotives.

‘The bad air we all breathe in urban areas across Europe is partly due to diesel machines operating in construction sites and on locomotives and barges,’ said T&E’s air pollution officer François Cuenot. ‘Instead of filtering their toxic emissions, the Commission wants to allow more cancer-causing pollution for years to come.’

‘We urge the Parliament and member states to require big diesel machines and locomotives to fit particulate filters to drive out the invisible killer in our cities.’

The legislation will now be considered by the European Parliament and Council. It sets out deadlines between 2018 and 2020 for the approval of new engines, depending on their type. Another 12 months would be allowed for transition from approval to commercialisation.

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