Those who drive cars powered by diesel fuel could suffer extra costs and new taxes, as the Mayor of London releases proposals to combat excessively high air pollution levels in London and the rest of the UK.
A charge, roughly amounting to £10, will be piled on top of the £11.50 congestion charge for drivers of diesel-fuelled cars seeking to come into central London. Charging Diesel car owners has long been in the mind of Boris Johnson, as highlighted by his reference to it in previous plans pertaining to his concept of an ultra-low emissions zone.
Additionally, Johnson is piling pressure on Westminster to increase taxes on diesel fuel, arguing that levies on diesel fuel should be greater than on petrol due to the greater levels of pollution the former perpetuates. The mayor has made it abundantly clear he considers diesel fuel to be wasteful and costly, and as such, those who are not concerned about their use of it ought to be better informed of its harmful effects.
Air pollution levels have long since broken the legal thresholds, and there is a deepening worry, amongst minister, that its exponential growth could yield hefty sanctions from the European Union. The European Commission took legal action against Britain last February, and the situation could worsen if not addressed immediately.
City councils across the country have rallied against the threat of these fines, all committing to cutting pollution levels and decreasing the number of emissions. Many are adopting temporary, trial measures, with Oxford creating a low emission zone for buses earlier this year.
Amongst Johnsonís other suggestions are: the formation of a fund by the European Commission, which would allow for more electric cars to be seen on the streets of London, and for government to hike up vehicle excise duty rates to discourage flagrant use of high-emission cars. These are all measures which would aid Johnsonís eventual target of getting the capitalís air pollution levels two thirds of the way to EU standards.
There has been mixed reaction to Boris Johnsonís proposals, with many thinking the mayorís measures are not tough enough. One such critic, Murad Qureshi, environment spokesman, said: ìInstead of banning diesel vehicles completely from an ultra low emissions zone, the mayor is simply fining them £10 for the privilege. And by not implementing this until 2020, Boris is kicking the problem into the long grass.
“By that time, Boris will have left City Hall four years previously, and around 51,000 Londoners will have died prematurely since he took office in 2008. London needs bold action now. The mayor should bring forward these proposals from 2020 to an earlier date.”
Others commended the London Mayorís actions, welcoming the timing of the reform and praising the far-reaching effects Johnsonís measures could have on the rest of the UK.
Simon Moore, senior researcher at Policy Exchange, said: “For too long people have been encouraged to buy diesel vehicles, which while slightly better for the climate are far worse for local air quality. The mayor’s proposal to charge diesel drivers extra to come to places where pollution is worst should help end this dire health problem. It gives a clear sign that polluters should pay.”
Diesel fuel has been criticised for the fine particles it is comprised off, which can cause lung problems in children and adults alike. Around 29, 000 premature deaths are said to occur in the UK every year as a result of air pollution levels, which diesel significantly impacts on.
Yet, diesel cars have been sold at an exponentially faster rate since 2000 due to how cheap they are to operate
Green Party London Assembly fellow, Jenny Jones, criticised the potential delay of legislature to 2020, pointing to potential heavy losses of life up until that point as justification for immediate reform.
Jones said: “The mayor is right to target diesel vehicles as a major health hazard but we need action on them immediately, not 2020. Also, the ultra low emissions zone in central London is too small to have any significant impact on the majority of diesel vehicles in London, which is why we need the mayor to allow all the inner London boroughs to join the scheme if they want to.”
One thing is for certain; this issue is far more pressing than the majority of the public might think.