Media / public policy

the Petrolgate

As the Guardian has reported yesterday, the Dieselgate, part II, also dubbed Petrolgate, is being shot across the chambers of the European Parliament. The automotive industry is now lobbying to rise the allowed pollution rates of newly manufactured petrol cars by 50%. This is especially frustrating if only a single £22 filter could fix the problem, as also stated in the same article. The car industry yet again prefers to spin and bargain behind the scenes instead of trying to find an actual solution to a problem. Rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Automotive industry has been lobbying since the beginning of the VW diesel car emitions scandal last year, also known as the dieselgate,and it’s outrageous that the same thing is happening now yet again with the petrol cars. As Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder was quoted in an article in the Guardian last year, “This is a disgraceful stitch-up by national governments, who are once again putting the interests of carmakers ahead of public health,” and it’s no different this time.

This is also quite hypocritical since the European Union environmental policy states that the “EU environment policy rests on the principles of precaution, prevention and rectifying pollution at source, and on the ‘polluter pays’ principle. (…) The ‘polluter pays’ principle is implemented by the Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), which aims to prevent or otherwise remedy environmental damage to protected species and to natural habitats, water and soil. Operators of certain occupational activities such as the transport of dangerous substances, or of activities that imply discharges into waters, have to take preventive measures in case of an imminent threat to the environment. If damage has already occurred, they are obliged to take the appropriate measures to remedy it and pay for the costs.

I haven’t been able to find any information on the automotive industry paying for any respiratory problems treatment within the EU or any kind of health problems for that matter, unfortunately. Maybe somehow I overlooked them, and if yes, I would be very happy to have my current knowledge updated. But until then, I think that the EU and its members should reread their organisation’s environmental policy before dollar signs will be the only thing they will be able to see before their eyes when voting for the proposal to pass.

This issue is not only about climate change, but also human health. Car manufacturers instead of brainwashing and lobbying should focus on finding solutions to problems which are hugely harmful and cause 600,000 premature deaths annually in the Europe alone. How could it change?

First of all, the filters mentioned above. This is a win-win situation, at least for human health in short-term, however doesn’t tackle any of the issues related to climate change. Still better than mindless lobbying.

Second of all, developing new targets for alternative transportation in cities. New bicycle lanes, efficient urban planning, low-carbon public transport, we all know how it goes.

Third of all, intercity transport alternatives. Frequent train services, bus routes, campaigns encouraging car pooling.

Finally, for car lovers (who probably didn’t like any of the above), electric cars and government-led incentives to buy them.

None of the above are new or innovative ideas. All we need is the governments to stop listening to lobbyists and start thinking long-term. We should be not raising, but lowering the limits of pollution. If we make the automotive industry pay for the car pollution (if they don’t find a way to fix their exhaust problems), this could potentially equal with more funds to tackle climate change. And this is definitely what we need, not more premature deaths and carefree car makers who do whatever they want, just because they have enough money to talk to the right people in the right place in the right time.

There definitely is a need for a clear political agenda on the matter internationally. The United Nations has been taking some significant steps in trying to establish an international agreement on switching to low-carbon transport solutions for a few years now, however pledging one thing and then doing something completely opposite just doesn’t add up. National governments, in Europe and everywhere else, should be pushing car manufacturers to explore innovative solutions to tackle carbon emissions and pollution. The money is there, the industry obviously doesn’t have a lack of thereof if it is able to be lobbying extensively, not only in Europe, but also in other parts of the world for decades. Maybe if carmakers stopped wasting their time and redirected funding from their PR departments to the technological innovation ones, this would be the first and the last post in this blog on this matter. And wouldn’t that be just great.


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