Euro7: a missed opportunity for air quality in cities

10 November 2022

Road traffic is still a major source of air pollution in cities. Data from the European Environment Agency shows that in the European Union people are exposed to air pollution levels above those recommended by the World Health Organisation. The situation remains serious, despite some improvements in recent years thanks to more stringent EU regulations.

As the European Commission finally published new rules on vehicles’ pollutant emissions – known as Euro 7 – Eurocities and Polis shared their concerns in a letter to EU policymakers.

A general lack of ambition

Both networks are concerned about the lack of ambition shown in the text proposed by European regulators. Setting lenient Euro 7 rules will mean that cities will need to step up their efforts to fight air pollution in order to keep in line with air quality legislation that the EU proposed late last month.

“We worry that the lack of ambition of the Euro 7 regulation will result in serious struggles for cities and regions to achieve compliance with the most recent air quality standards,” Eurocities and Polis state in their joint letter.

The networks also warn that due to the lack of strong emission limits, municipalities will be forced to take further action, such as banning conventional vehicles from running in their territories. Local authorities would pay a high political cost for adopting such measures.

“If the Parliament and the Council do not improve the final text, the burden will be shifted on cities which might end up paying the price of unpopular – but necessary – measures,” warns André Sobczak, Eurocities Secretary General.

Less complexity, more simplicity

With the new text creating different categories of Euro 7 compliant vehicles, Eurocities and Polis point to the complexity of this proposal and caution about the risk of greenwashing.

Local authorities rely on Euro standards to set up their low-emission zones, so introducing a complex Euro 7 category may create confusion for policymakers and citizens, which is unlikely to win over residents’ support for these measures.

The introduction of different Euro 7 categories also risks pushing pollution to the edge of city centres as it would favour the manufacturing of vehicles that can emit different emission levels depending on their location.

“New vehicle categories based on geo-fencing and adaptive emission could provide a way to transfer emissions of air pollutants from low-emission and zero-emission zones to their adjacent areas,” Eurocities and Polis remark.

“There’s no time to waste. We must accelerate the shift to sustainable and clean mobility. Cities and regions hold the keys to fundamental changes. Many are bravely stepping forward, and their efforts must be supported by EU regulations, not undermined,” Karen Vancluysen, POLIS Secretary General concludes.

Not the end of the road

For the moment, the text proposed by the European Commission is a draft. European Parliament legislators and EU member states representatives will now discuss the content of the proposal and amend the text, if necessary.

The following months will therefore be crucial to ensure that the EU stays on course to reduce the number of premature deaths by 50% by 2030 and align with the goals of the Zero Pollution Action Plan. To this end, Eurocities and Polis members expressed their willingness to cooperate with EU policymakers to propose changes to Euro 7 that may best preserve the health of millions of people. The two networks also gladly accept the invitation to join the stakeholder group which will be tasked to monitor the road transport sector’s transition to net-zero emissions.

Read letter by clicking on the link: Joint_Letter_Polis-Eurocities_EURO7


Thomas Lymes Policy Advisor, Mobility & Air Quality