CSE takes government to task over draft emission and efficiency norms for cars

The Centre for Science and Environment or CSE, the most vocal of India’s homegrown environmental organizations, has punched holes in a government move to set fuel efficiency and emission norms for cars.

It accused the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), the Government body that came up with a draft proposal, of playing into the hands of the car industry and proposing targets that will anyway be met in the natural course of events.

“.. compared to the 2009-10 level, the official proposal is asking for only 0.45 per cent per year reduction until 2015 and by 2.27 per cent thereafter,” CSE said in a statement reacting to the BEE proposal unveiled at a public consultation event.

“..it is shocking that these targets are far worse than the natural rate of improvement achieved by the car industry. The BEE consultation paper itself states that the actual average fuel consumption of cars has already reduced by 2.8 per cent a year since 2006-07 to reach 6 litre/100 km in 2009-10,” says Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director-research and head of its air pollution and urban mobility team.

The latest statement comes six months after CSE expressed concern over “alleged attempts by car companies to dilute” efficiency norms.

The organization has been at the forefront in the fight for air-quality in India’s rapidly developing cities. It was instrumental in getting the Courts to take cognizance of the air pollution problem in Delhi, even as the elected government failed to act against erring industries and vehicle owners.

The current efficiency and emission norms are being modeled on similar standards set by regulatory bodies in places like the European Union and the US. Once stipulated, car manufacturers will be forced to improve the efficiency and emissions of their products every year.

However, CSE claimed, the BEE is using ‘clever ploys’ and vague definitions that may dilute their impact. For one, it pointed out, that actual mileage and emission figures are not being spelt out, but only a formula is being given.

“What the BEE proposal gives is only a complex set of equations and a slope of a standard line… all international regulations take care to mention the actual limit value or standard in the regulatory document…

“The people of the country are expected to figure out from this the corporate average fuel consumption standard for cars! But even that is not possible as the proposal does not share any data on sales, fuel consumption and weight of car models (needed to estimate the corporate average standards),” it pointed out.

The CSE, going by the indications given by BEE, said that company-specific targets may be so lax that some of the major carmakers will not have to do anything until 2015. According to CSE, Tata Motors and Hyundai were already meeting the proposed standard of 2015-16, while Maruti met the targets this year itself.

“Only after 2015 does the limit value get a little tighter, especially for heavier vehicles, but it is still not stringent enough,” CSE said.

“…in reality, the actual improvement targeted over the 10 years is a mere 1.2 per cent. This completely defies logic and is scientifically untenable. Why is the government of India giving legitimacy to motivated misinformation,” CSE asked.

Calling the proposals an “unholy mix of strategies,” CSE called for an independent official central registry database in the public domain to monitor emissions and efficiency standards and urged the government to look beyond industry representations, when deciding such norms.

“CSE is extremely concerned that the standards have been decided based only on deliberations with the automobile industry which is the target of these standards. This is a serious conflict of interest. All emissions regulations for vehicles so far — including the Auto Fuel Policy Roadmap — have been decided by well represented bodies and committees and broad-based consultation processes with a range of stakeholders,” it said.