The Top 5: Four Mayors Will Ban Diesel Cars

Happy Thursday friends! Here’s my weekly take on the five most interesting developments in LCFV trends over the last week.

  • Mayors of four of the world’s largest cities will ban diesel cars from their cities, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan hasn’t gone quite that far (yet). Car bans are a major emerging trend this year that I’m continuing to follow.
  • Five African countries announced they would ban diesel fuel imports with sulfur content higher than 50 ppm and upgrade their refineries to produce cleaner fuels. The latter will be difficult, but the former presents a great opportunity for refiners and biofuels producers.
  • Global Automakers requested that EPA withdraw its proposed determination on fuel economy, but I expect such request to go unheeded.
  • The European Commission is taking action against five member states in the Dieselgate scandal for failing to enforce their national laws against auto companies or failing to include penalty systems into their national laws at all.
  • The California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its scoping plan for implementing the 40% GHG reduction target signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this year. A number of transport measures were included in the plan, including the goal to reach 100% ZEV penetration.

1. The Guardian: Four of World’s Biggest Cities to Ban Diesel Cars from Their Centres

Last Friday, the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City announced plans to take diesel cars and vans off their roads by 2025. Paris Mayor Anne Hildago said at an event to announce the effort:

“Mayors have already stood up to say that climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face. Today, we also stand up to say we no longer tolerate air pollution and the health problems and deaths it causes, particularly for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Few details were included, but the mayors said they would focus on improving public transport and promoting EVs. Meantime, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said this week he would double funding to fight air pollution (in particular nitrogen dioxide, NO2) to £875 million (US$1.1 billion). Initiative will include: cleaner buses, incentives to encourage taxi drivers to choose cleaner vehicles (i.e. ZEVs), adding bike lanes and starting the ultra low emission zone a year early (see posts Nov. 3, 2016; July 8, 2016.) The plan will be vetted for approval by the Transport for London board meeting next week. Mayor Khan has stopped short of calling for a diesel vehicle ban (though he is being pushed hard by environmental NGOs).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: banning cars (or somehow limiting their use) is going to increasingly be a primary strategy to combat air pollution and climate change primarily in cities. Such strategies are already being deployed in New Delhi, Oslo, Zurich, Curitiba and Bangalore. The UN is encouraging such initiatives in its Habitat III New Urban Agenda (see post see post Oct. 24, 2016).

I also expect to see cities begin to play a more dominant role in climate and air pollution policies as political gridlock grips their national governments. Dubbed “paradiplomacy” in an article in the World Economic Forum and then the Global Policy Journal, a researcher Rodrigo Tavares put it as follows:

“Aware of their economic potential, and faced with gridlock in national capitals, mayors and governors have gone a long way towards exercising political and economic power globally. The international activism of cities and states is rapidly growing across the world, discreetly transforming diplomatic practices and the delivery of public services… Foreign policy conducted at local level still faces many challenges in terms of resilience, professionalism, coordination, and efficiency. But if we insist that foreign affairs ought to be under the exclusive purview of central governments, we will be overlooking the full complexity of global governance and competitiveness. With the UN expecting 75% of the world’s population to live in cities by 2050, paradiplomacy is here to stay.”

No doubt this could profoundly impact the fuels and vehicles industries and it’s a trend worth paying attention to. This trend will be covered in more depth in an upcoming report of the Future Fuels Outlook service.

2. BBC: Five African Countries Ban ‘Dirty Fuels’ from Europe

This week the African countries Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire agreed to ban diesel imports with a sulfur content of more than 50 ppm and upgrade their refineries to produce cleaner fuels. Read more about it here.

3. GreenCar Congress: Global Automakers Calls on EPA to Withdraw Proposed Determination on MY 2022-2025 GHG Standards, Get Back in Alignment with NHTSA, Provide More Time

In a not unexpected move, the Global Automakers called upon EPA either to withdraw its proposed determination on MY 2022-2025 light duty vehicle GHG standards or to extend the comment period 120 days. Read more about it here.

4. European Commission: Car Emissions: Commission Opens Infringement Procedures Against 7 Member States for Breach of EU Rules

Today the European Commission announced that it is taking action against seven member states for failing to set up penalty systems to deter car companies from violating car emissions legislation and/or not applying such sanctions when a breach of law has occurred. The member states include: the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Spain and the United Kingdom on the grounds that they have disregarded EU vehicle type approval rules.

The Commission charges that the Czech Republic, Greece and Lithuania failed to introduce penalties systems into their national law. It charges that Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and the United Kingdom did not apply their national provisions on penalties despite the company’s use of illegal defeat device software in those countries. And, it charges that Germany and the UK broke the law by refusing to disclose, when requested by the Commission, all the technical information gathered in their national investigations regarding potential nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions irregularities in cars by Volkswagen Group and other car manufacturers on their territories.

EU Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG Industry) said:

“Abiding by the law is first and foremost the duty of car manufacturers. But national authorities across the EU must ensure that car manufacturers actually comply with the law. For the future, the Commission has tabled proposals to introduce greater European oversight and to make the type approval system more robust. We expect the European Parliament and Council to reach an agreement swiftly.”

What’s the next step? For those of us not familiar with EU-level legal process, I’ll summarize. A letter of formal notice, which is what occurred today, is a first step in an infringement procedure and constitutes an official request for information. Member states now have two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission; otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion. This is a formal request for the member states to comply with the law and to inform the Commission of measures taken to comply within a specified period, usually two months.

If the EU member state still doesn’t comply, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice (though most cases are settled before this point, according to the Commission). The Commission may also ask the court to impose penalties. If the court finds there was a breach of EU law, the member state must take action to comply with the court judgment.

There have been proposals for greater EU oversight of national approval systems for vehicles (which would include emissions and fuel economy). The Commission proposed empowering its Joint Research Centre to inspect vehicles separately from national authorities, which are paid by the car manufacturers they regulate. This was killed by member states, and some of the same that are subject to the foregoing enforcement action.

5. CARB: California Charts Path to Achieve Ambitious 2030 Climate Goals

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its initial draft plan to reduce GHG emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030—the most ambitious target in North America. The 2030 Target Scoping Plan Discussion Draft builds on the state’s efforts to reach its more immediate goal of reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and outlines the most effective ways to reach the new 2030 goal, including continuing California’s Cap-and-Trade program. CARB said in the draft plan:

“California’s population is projected to grow to 50 million people by 2050. How and where the State grows will have important implications for all sectors of the economy, especially the transportation sector. Supporting this growth while continuing to protect the environment, developing livable and vibrant communities, and growing the economy is dependent on transitioning the State’s transportation system to one powered by zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) and low carbon fuels and that offers other attractive and convenient low-carbon transportation choices, including safe walking and bicycling, and quality public transportation. Investments should consider California’s diverse communities and provide accessible and clean travel options to all.”

The following high-level objectives and goals were outlined to achieve GHG reductions in the transport sector:

  • Reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by promoting land-use changes, transit-oriented development, street design policies that encourage walking and biking and increasing low carbon mobility choices, including affordable public transportation, continue high-speed rail development, promote ZEVs and alternative transportation fuel system infrastructure (among other measures).
  • Through a strong set of complementary policies – including reliable incentives, significant infrastructure investment, broad education and outreach, and potential regulation – aim to reach 100 percent ZEV sales.
  • Electrify the transportation sector using both electricity and hydrogen, promote research, development, and deployment of low carbon fuels such as renewable natural gas and renewable hydrogen and rapidly reduce carbon intensity of existing liquid and gaseous transportation fuels.
  • Increase freight system efficiency and accelerate clean vehicle and equipment technologies and fuels.

As I’ve noted before, the state will have to take unprecedented action to meet the 40% target. Basically by 2030, California would get more than 50% of its electricity from renewables, ZEVs would make up at least 25% of the fleet, high-speed rail would displace a significant percentage of car travel, biodiesel and renewable diesel would fuel heavy-duty trucks, pastures would be converted to forests, electricity would replace natural gas in heating, and so forth. And as I’ve noted before, if California can do it and pave the way, other countries will follow.