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German government knew about emissions cheating by car manufacturers

Dorothee Saar, Head of Transport and Air Quality team at Deutsche Umwelthilfe today testified during a meeting of the European Parliament's Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (EMIS).

Saar described the efforts of Deutsche Umwelthilfe in 2011 to bring the irregularities in emissions testing to the attention of the German government without success. Deutsche Umwelthilfe had accused the German government of deliberately ignoring the problem while having knowledge about it.

GUE/NGL MEP Cornelia Ernst criticised the German government for overlooking evidence as far back as 2007:

“The German government have questions to answer on how serious concerns about irregularities with car emissions testing were completely ignored. As this hearing has confirmed, officials at the German Ministry of Transportation informally acknowledged that they knew about the problem yet did nothing about it. This is unacceptable.”

The German MEP also highlighted the Commission’s role: 

“The Commission was aware about insufficiencies in the existing testing procedures yet did very little to improve the situation. It’s disconcerting that former Commissioner Günter Verheugen refused to give evidence to the Committee about the issue.”

Saar highlighted in the hearing that the current regulation is clear but enforcement is weak. Ernst agreed that enforcement must be strengthened:

“We need independent auditors and the strengthening of supervisory authorities on a national level as well as on the European level.”

Ernst concluded by praising the role of Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a German environmental and consumer protection association, in helping to strengthen accountability following the scandal:

“Deutsche Umwelthilfe has presented valuable evidence to the committee that will help us hold the Commission and member states more effectively to account.”

The EMIS inquiry committee was established late last year following the VW emissions scandal to investigate the alleged failure of the Commission and member states to apply the regulation adequately to prevent cases of cheating.