Europe and Central Asia
6 Nov 2015

Fool Me Once… - Calls on the EU to act in wake of VW Dieselgate Scandal

Photo © Pasi Haapakorva/Flickr
By Finlay Duncan

Following the Dieselgate scandal, which saw Volkswagen caught cheating emissions tests, there has been much discussion over how this was allowed to occur and how to prevent it from happening again in the future.

This situation was perhaps a long time coming, with the huge might of lobbying power enjoyed by European car manufacturers. In the mid-1990s, the industry was successful in getting a voluntary scheme introduced on CO2 emissions targets, rather than binding limits, with the scheme subsequently failing. Even when binding limits were introduced a decade later they were watered down thanks to successful carmaker lobbying. VW has itself enjoyed privileged access, being a member of five European Commission advisory groups and the industry lobby group ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers' Association).

In a bid to protect the people of Europe, instead of business interests, 39 civil society organisations are today calling on the EU to take action on air pollution and fraudulent industry behaviour.

An open letter from BirdLife, Greenpeace and others has been sent to the Presidents of the European Union’s institutions (the Commission, Council and Parliament) urging them to tackle the weak rules and lenient enforcement of environmental laws that has led us to the place we are now at. A place where corporate co-regulation and self-regulation is seen as a better, cheaper, option than effective regulations which actually protect the public interest. Air pollution is a massive problem and one which is not going away; more than 400,000 people die prematurely in Europe every year because of it.

Four key recommendations are put forward in the letter on how the EU can be proactive on this issue:

1 – Undertake an immediate, independent and transparent EU-level investigation into the Dieselgate scandal
This would include a full review of the rules and regulations that failed to prevent the scandal from occurring.

2 – Establish EU oversight in the process of type approval for motor vehicles
The existing process of national agencies overseeing and undertaking EU-wide type approval hasn’t been seen as a success given what it has resulted in.

3 – Strengthen the enforcement of environmental legislation at EU and Member State level
This would also involve giving public environmental inspectors the powers they need to protect our health and the environment

4 – Ensure that fraudulent companies are suspended from the EU lobby register until it has been demonstrated that they comply with EU law
Meetings between companies involved in investigations and the EU institutions should be put on ice until any suspected fraudulent activity has been cleared up.

It’s hoped by speaking with one voice, the weight of numbers provided by these civil society organisations can convince the European institutions to act. Certainly, progress on all four recommendations will be followed very closely in the weeks ahead.

The letter (and a full list of participating organisations) is available to view in full here.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.