BORIS JOHNSON, Mayor of London is calling for drivers of diesel vehicles to pay an extra £10 on top of the capital’s normal congestion charge (currently £11.50 per day) in an effort to improve air quality in the capital.
According to The Times today, the proposal could be rolled out to Sheffield, Leicester, Bradford, Birmingham, Bristol and 15 other cities with poor air quality, with the creation of new low emission zones that would penalise diesel-powered vehicles. Oxford introduced one for buses this year and may extend it to other vehicles.
Mr Johnson has also called for diesel drivers to pay a higher Vehicle Excise Duty (VED, or “road tax”).
Scientists estimate that air pollution already kills 29,000 people each year and that the nitrogen dioxide and toxic particulates from diesel exhausts are particularly harmful, causing most of these premature deaths.
In 2012, half of the 2 million new cars bought in Britain were diesel, compared with just 18 per cent 11 years previously. Of the 3.3 million registered vans, 95 per cent were diesel. Ministers have been advised that the only solution is a wholesale move back to petrol vehicles.
Matthew Pencharz, the mayor’s environment adviser, said: “We want to see an unwinding of incentives that have driven people to diesel. Euro engine standards on emissions have not delivered the savings expected, meaning we now have a legacy of a generation of dirty diesels.
“It would not be reasonable to say, ‘I’m sorry, you have just bought that car but it’s now banned.’ People bought them in good faith and it’s not fair to clobber them,” he said. “We think a five-year notice gives enough warning. People who drive in once a month might not buy a newer car whereas somebody who drives in every day probably would do.”
Simon Birkett, director of the campaign group Clean Air in London, said that Mr Johnson had previously encouraged dirty diesel cars by exempting smaller ones from the congestion charge.