Intended for healthcare professionals


Diesel in the dock

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 12 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5415
  1. Paul Wilkinson, professor of environmental epidemiology,
  2. Andy Haines, professor of public health and primary care
  1. 1Department of Social and Environmental Health Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1H 9SH, UK
  1. Correspondence to: P Wilkinson paul.wilkinson{at}

Time for society to commit to a decisive break with fossil fuel combustion

The recent revelations that, apparently from 2008,1 Volkswagen installed software in its diesel cars to evade US emissions tests has thrown a spotlight both on corporate responsibility and on the dual environmental challenges of outdoor air pollution and climate change. The failure of regulators to detect this breach of regulations calls into question society’s collective commitment to tackling air pollution and suggests that policies to address climate change and air pollution must be harmonised.

The irony is that diesel engines have been promoted in Europe because they are more efficient than petrol engines and therefore thought to benefit climate change. In 1998, in the wake of the Kyoto climate change protocol, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association agreed with the European Commission to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars by 25% over 10 years. While American and Japanese manufacturers invested in the development of hybrid and electric cars, the European car industry persuaded the Commission to promote diesel. Consequently, through subsidies and tax incentives, ownership of diesel cars in the UK and Europe has grown substantially, from less than 10% …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription