European Union Tackles Small Engine Emissions

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 26, 2000 (ENS) - Drawing heavily on rules already in place in the United States, the European Commission has proposed a law governing air pollutants from petrol driven non-road mobile equipment, such as lawnmowers and other garden tools.

The directive will establish the first ever European Union limits on such machinery and it follows agreement of similar limits on non-road diesel engined machinery in 1997.


One old gas powered lawn mower running for an hour emits as much pollution as driving 650 miles in a 1992 model automobile. (Photo courtesy Sacramento Air Quality Management District)
As proposed by the European Commission, the directive requires the European Union's 15 member states to set limits on carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides for seven different engine types.

This will be achieved in two steps. The first of these will be within 18 months of the law's adoption and the second between 2004 and 2010, depending on engine type.

Once implemented, engine emissions will fall by up to 85 percent compared to current levels, the Commission says. Fuel consumption will drop by up to 30 percent, which will reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The Commission says the law is needed because even though emissions from this source are relatively minor, they are growing as a percentage of overall combustion engine emissions. That is because limits already agreed for vehicle engines are beginning to bite.

But the real novelty of the plans is a provision allowing companies to "borrow and trade" to ensure their products meet the stage two limits. For instance, producers could market an engine whose emissions exceed the limits provided that other engine types in their portfolio compensate by emitting correspondingly less.

They could also "bank" credits achieved in this way for use in subsequent years, and even sell them to manufacturers having trouble meeting the limits for their own engines.

The law is closely based on legislation in place in the U.S. since 1997 and being prepared in Japan. It will, says the Commission, create "worldwide alignment" of emission standards for these equipment types.

Trading emissions is a distinctly American concept. The Commission admits it will "create some uncertainties," having "never been used before [at European Union level] in this field."

It will review the planned scheme and may suggest changes before it is due to take effect.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}