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China Imposes First-Ever Fines for Auto Emissions Violations

In January, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) imposed fines on two domestic truck makers—Tangjun and Kama—for selling vehicles that didn’t comply with emissions standards. These were the first-ever fiscal penalties levied by the ministry for auto emissions violations. The two companies were fined nearly $6 million total, or $14,000 per vehicle, for trucks that sold for an average of $7,000.

The 2015 Volkswagen “Dieselgate” scandal highlighted the challenge of emissions non-compliance globally. In China, available data suggest that conformity is poor: A 2016 research study supported by EF China found that over 80 percent of tested light-duty trucks and 20 percent of tested cars failed to meet emissions standards. This result was hardly surprising; in 2014, Chinese media exposed the widespread use of fake emissions labeling on heavy-duty trucks. However, MEP could not effectively address the problem at the time due to weak laws and regulations, and limited enforcement resources.

EF China has helped build field capacity through training, study tours, and workshops, with technical assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Air Resources Board, and grantees such as the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). For example, EF China supported the Vehicle Emission Control Center (VECC)—a policy research group affiliated with MEP—and the Xiamen Vehicle Emissions Control Technology Center (VECT) to train their staff in vehicle compliance testing with the help of the EPA. Grantees ICCT, VECC, and consultant Michael Walsh also provided analysis to policymakers when they updated China’s Clean Air Law in 2015 to significantly strengthen mobile source emissions control by prioritizing compliance and recall programs, and by increasing penalties for violations. In 2016, we funded Huisibo Consulting Company and VECT to conduct conformity-screening research, which discovered non-compliant models and their makers (including the two penalized this time), providing the basis for MEP's investigations.

The $6 million fine is a small step toward enforcing China’s increasingly stricter emissions standards for vehicles. EF China will continue to work with international and domestic partners to help China build a strong enforcement program.

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