The work of the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) led to the discovery of a global scheme by Volkswagen to deliberately avoid motor vehicle standards. This scandal continues to reverberate in the auto industry and has raised global awareness of the impact of diesel vehicles on air quality.
The ICCT’s actions have ultimately shifted global attitudes toward diesel, changed the direction of the automobile industry, which is now moving away from diesel and petrol engines and toward electric mobility, highlighted the need to closely monitor self-regulating companies, and raised global awareness of the dangers of vehicle pollution to health and the environment in a transformative way.
It is a defining example of the need of an engaged and active NGO sector and the additional value of NGOs bring to helping frame, develop and execute transformative policy.
The ICCT’s work led to the world’s largest fiscal penalties for vehicle emissions violations, and started a process of improving compliance and enforcement programs within the U.S., Europe, China, Korea, Japan and many other major markets. Paris, Madrid, Athens, Mexico City announced diesel bans by 2025, in part inspired by the subsequent real world emissions testing by Germany, France and United Kingdom. The Volkswagen scandal initiated actions to enhance the European vehicle emissions enforcement regime, including votes in the European Council and Parliament to grant greater authority to the EU Commission to recall vehicles and to member states to impose fines.
The impact of the Volkswagen scandal to air quality is significant and include reduced concentrations of secondary particulates and ozone. It also had myriad effects on nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions and future policies to control NOx.
Legal actions in the US that force the fix or recall of affected Volkswagen vehicles with 2.0 litre engines could avoid 68,000–82,000 tonnes of NOx and 119– 140 premature deaths between 2016 and 2040, with a value of US$ 905–910 million. These benefits could be 20% higher if the fix or recall of Volkswagen vehicles with 3.0 litre engines are also taken into account.
It is not guaranteed that all affected Volkswagen vehicles sold worldwide will be fixed or recalled. In the EU, fixing or recalling the 8.5 million vehicles affected could avoid approximately 800,000 tonnes of NOx and US$ 62 billion in health damages cumulatively between 2016 and 2040.
Strengthened Real Driving Emissions test programs in all major markets that follow the EU's regulatory example could avoid 1.5 million tonnes of NOx and 31,400 premature deaths per year in 2040.