Larger non-road machines may escape emissions limits

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 a draft EU law being considered.

According to EurActiv, the draft Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) directive limits nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions for electricity generators and other equipment with a power rating of less than 560KWh, but it exempts higher-polluting diesel engines over 560KWh from having to filter the most dangerous forms of PM.

As well as increasing greenhouse gases and local air pollution, these emissions affect the health of the machines’ operators. Failing to set a particle number standard for equipment over 560KWh will also lead to a market distortion, encouraging sales of the largest and more polluting equipment that will not need to be fitted with a diesel particulate filter that removes more the 99 per cent of the particles.

Diesel exhaust is carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), and diesel machines are a major local source of urban air pollution near some railways stations and construction sites. For example, in London, construction machines account for 15% of all PM emissions and 12% of NOx. In Europe every year air pollution causes 100 million sick days and more than 400,000 premature deaths.

Greg Archer, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said: ‘This draft law would encourage people to use bigger generating equipment that creates more pollution and more cancer.’

The law also does not set a particle number standard for locomotives or smaller inland waterway vessels (below 300KWh). Such equipment emits large amounts of black carbon. Larger inland waterway vessels and some railway equipment does have a standard.

Another notable emission is a requirement for manufacturers to report or even measure CO2 emissions that have not been type approved. With a review clause for 2025, campaigners warn this will result in less fuel efficiency information for construction equipment for another 15 years, slowing innovation.

Campaigners also point to the draft law’s inadequate and unclear requirements on in-service checking of machines. Long lead-in times for compliance for some categories of machines will also unnecessarily delay progress. ‘If the Commission is serious about arresting this invisible killer in our cities, it must close these loopholes before it issues the law,’ Archer added.

The draft legislation for non-road mobile machinery is a response to the increase in the use of stationary construction equipment, much of which is not covered by existing laws. Some existing legislation is thought to be out-dated, extremely complex, or not implemented by member states.

Also, while pollution standards for road vehicles have become stricter, equivalent limits for diesel machines lag far behind. A European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) report identifies significant potential for reducing emissions from non-road mobile machinery.

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