Campaign to curb EU imports of older cars
Wealthy EU countries accused of unloading high-emission vehicles on to poorer states
Cyprus is supporting a campaign by several fellow EU states that claim richer members are dumping their older high-emission vehicles on poorer countries.
Bulgaria, Slovenia and Poland have taken an initiative to persuade Brussels to take restrictive measures regarding exports of cars from one EU country to another.
The Ministry of Environment and Agriculture has declared its support for the cause, acknowledging that the import of used cars with engines that emit high amounts of CO2 is taking its toll on Cyprus’ efforts to meet its targets regarding the reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020 and 2030.
The ministry declared its backing for the campaign in an EU Environment Ministers’ meeting held in Luxemburg via ministry official Olympia Stylianou.
Following Cyprus support for the initiative, Luxemburg, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia also declared their endorsement for the campaign which seeks to have the matter discussed at an EU Parliament level and be reexamined by the European Commission.
According to Ministry of Agriculture sources, countries such as Cyprus are having a hard time as it is meeting their 2020, which include the reduction of CO2 emissions in transport, and they perceive the import of petrol-thirsty cars as another obstacle.
“Failure to comply to the EU directives will result in penalties which will be passed on to the public through taxes,” explained the source.
Cyprus is affected by the import of problematic secondhand vehicles, in particular with diesel-powered engines, which are imposing further obstacles to the country’s efforts to meet its 2020 targets.
“The same applies to the other seven countries that call for restrictive measures in the context of free trade set by the EU, stressing that the framework in force effectively helps to relieve countries such as Germany, Belgium and Italy (with left-hand drive vehicles) and Britain (with right-hand drive vehicles) from high emission vehicles,” said the source.
“These countries are selling their old vehicles by bringing them to countries where, due to low income of citizens, they find a large market of older used vehicles,” the source added.
He said that the problem is expected to worsen with a ban on the movement of such vehicles in Europe’s cities and towns, whereby used diesel vehicles will be withdrawn and exported to other EU countries even more cheaply.
Meanwhile, car importers have also expressed concerns over imports with high CO2 emissions from other EU countries and believe Cyprus is rightly supporting the campaign.
Treasurer of the Motor Vehicles Importers Association, Dickran Ouzounian told the Financial Mirror, there is a huge increase in the number of used cars exported from Germany to the rest of the European Union.
“In Cyprus, we have witnessed imported second-hand cars increase rapidly over the last few years. Used cars now amount to 75% of all sales of cars, with half of them coming from Japan and the other half from the United Kingdom,” said Ouzounian.
He said that cars imported from the UK are usually luxury cars which are over five years old and run on diesel. “The UK is working on phasing out the use of diesel cars and it is expected that soon diesel engine cars will not be allowed in major cities such as London,” said Ouzounian.
He explained that this being the case, a lot of uncertainty is being generated around whether motorists in Britain will be able to drive around in their diesel cars.
“As a result, there is a drop in demand for these cars and citizens cannot sell them within the UK, so they seek to sell them to buyers from abroad. And as these cars are right-hand drive, Cyprus is the perfect market,” said Ouzounian.
He argues that these cars are not only problematic because they have a significant mileage on them, but they also pose a risk for the environment and public health.
“Diesel cars have what is called a Diesel Particular Filter which filters emissions from these engines. In most cars imported, this filter has been worn down and needs to be replaced. This means that a diesel car working without a proper filter in place, emits dangerous pollutants 80 to 100 times more,” he said.
Ouzounian explained that diesel engines do not only emit CO2, but also particular matters and nitrogen dioxide (NOx) particles. NOx is an irritant gas, which at high concentrations causes inflammation of the airways of the respiratory system.
When nitrogen is released during fuel combustion it combines with oxygen atoms to create nitric oxide (NO). This further combines with oxygen to create nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Nitric oxide is not considered to be hazardous to health at typical ambient concentrations, but nitrogen dioxide can be. Nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide are referred to together as oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
NOx gases react to form smog and acid rain as well as being central to the formation of fine particles (PM) and ground-level ozone, both of which are associated with adverse health effects.
Changing the filter is a consumer obligation, with many consumers opting to run their cars without the filter, due to the high cost. Ouzounian stressed that the state should take on the responsibility to check these cars, both when they are imported and during the biannual MOT evaluation.
“As an association, we are working closely with the government to introduce new measures which will reduce the country’s emissions in transport. However, you cannot achieve this with a restriction on free trade. We need to find ways to get consumers to consider the effect their car will have on the environment and public health before purchasing,” said Ouzounian.
A combination of increased fees for polluting vehicles, along with significant incentives to purchase cars which are friendlier to the environment, as the latest generation engines emit far fewer pollutants.
“This can be done through road tax charges, which is the direction the government is looking towards for a gradual reduction in transport pollutants.”
However, as Ouzounian said, the way road tax is calculated today is problematic and is actually achieving the opposite results from those desired. “Road tax is calculated taking into consideration how much CO2 is emitted by a car”. He said that that there are serious gaps in the legislation regarding road tax calculation as older cars’ road tax is calculated with a method introduced 30 years ago.
The old lab test – called the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) – was designed in the 1980s. Due to evolutions in technology and driving conditions, it became outdated. The European Union has therefore developed a new test, called the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) introduced in 2015.
“The new procedure is more thorough than the old method, and as a result, newer cars appear to emit more CO2. That means that owners of newer cars will be called to pay more, paving the way for people to buy older used cars with higher emissions in practice,” said Ouzounian.