Zoltán Massay-Kosubek

(source of the photo © elmada)

Some say that that the European Parliament will be in a very difficult situation next week when it will decide upon the new vehicle noise regulation, since by setting stricter or lighter vehicle noise limits, the Members of the European Parliament should prefer either the population’s public health and the protection of the environment or the viability of the European car industry. This perception is misleading: stricter car noise limits would serve not only the reduction of the noise pollution and realising public health and environmental benefits but it would also contribute to a sustainable and competitive European car industry.

On its next week plenary session, the European Parliament will discuss and decide upon the Commission proposal on sounds level of motor vehicles aimed at tightening noise emissions standards for cars, vans, lorries and buses. The Commission proposal, if approved in its current form by the Parliament and the Council, is expected to reduce noise emissions from new cars and vans.

Why is the reduction of noise pollution crucial for the environment and public health?
Firstly, noise pollution is a serious public health problem. Based on scientific evidences and data, the current high level of noise pollution is responsible for serious diseases and loss of healthy lifeyears. According to the latest report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), noise can cause hearing damage, cardiovascular disease, learning impairment in children and sleep disturbance.
Secondly, it is often forgotten that traffic noise is the most harmful environmental problem after air pollution in the European Union.

Why have these obvious benefits been put into question?
Because some argue that stricter noice limits would put higher burden on the crisis-hit European car industry, it would result more CO2 emission and the European car industry would not be able to compete on the world market. The fear of hurting the industry was so high that it touched upon even the credibility of the democratic decision making process by a scandal: the excel-file officialy submitted by the Member of the European Parliament responsible for this dossier contained the name of an industry-lobbyist, as author of the document

I have good news for everybody: these fears are simply unnecessary and unfounded. The stricter are the vehicle noise limits the better for the European car industry.

Reducing noise pollution would not only mean less cardiovascular diseases but it would also stimulate research and innovation. It would not hurt the car industry since the available technologies already exist and the example of Austria from the 90s shows that adapting the technology for new requirements was possible within 5 years (not to mention that the current wording of the new regulation contains 6 and 8 years transitional periods in 2 steps).

The reduced noise pollution which would be beneficial from environmental point of view will also result less CO2 emmission. According to the available information the motors which produce less noise have also reduced CO2 emissions. In other words, the new, quiter motors will produce less CO2 at the same time, having paralell environmental and climate change advantages.

Moreover, stricter noise limits can pave the way for a more sustainable and competitive car industry. Internal Market, Environmental protection, Research & Innovation and Public Health should not remain in fundamentally separate policy silos anymore – they are strictly interconnected. The European car industry is proud of being at the top of research & innovation and aiming at having quiter cars would stimulate further R & D in that sector. Nonetheless, leading economics may confirm that due to the limited fossil resources and the climate change perspective, the future trends are leading towards having more electric/hybrid cars. Thus, bearing in mind these trends, if Europe adapted its car industry to lower noise limits standards it would have a serious competition advantage on the world market.

That is why I am saying that stricter vehicle noise limits are beneficial both for the environment/public health and the car industry.

I remain at your disposal.

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The Often Forgotten Health Dimension of Biocides on the Occasion of the Publication of the New Biocide Regulation 528/2012/EU on the 27th June 2012 in the Official Journal

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