The Budget: a chance to combat climate change

Posted by bex — 22 February 2006 at 9:00am - Comments

A traffic jam at night

While the global suffering caused by climate change escalates every day, UK vehicles are pumping out more greenhouse gases than ever before.

CO2 emissions from road transport are rising. Car manufacturers, unlike most other sectors, aren't legally bound to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, when put under pressure to do something about their immense contribution to climate change, they agreed to voluntarily reduce emissions of the average new car by 2008.

It's now clear that they are going to break this promise. While Toyota are designing petrol-electric hybrids that emit only 104g of carbon dioxide per kilometre, Land Rover, like most other car manufacturers, are selling more and more gas guzzlers. Land Rover's prestige Range Rover emits a staggering 389g:

A chart comparing the CO2 emissions of an average new UK car, a Range Rover v8 and a Toyota Prius.

The colossally heavy design of 4x4s means they emit 300% more pollution than an ordinary passenger car. This design incorporates features for coping with off-road terrain, but their popularity among urban drivers means that most 4x4s will tackle nothing steeper than a speed bump. And the situation is likely to get worse; a recent AA poll found that 16% of all London drivers plan to buy a 4x4 vehicle within the next year.

"[F]our-wheel drive is not necessary for normal urban use, or indeed for normal road driving," says Dr Peter Wells, of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research. "[A]llowing them to be sold and used in urban environments is irresponsible."

The motor industry has had its chance to regulate its own carbon emissions - and failed. If the government takes climate change as seriously as it says it does, Gordon Brown will take the opportunity of the March 22nd budget to tax these gas-guzzlers off our roads.

Greenpeace is urging Brown to increase the differential between Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) bands so that drivers pay much more according to the amount of pollution they produce. The worst offenders - cars emitting over 221g of CO2 - should pay ᆪ1800. The cleanest cars should be exempt altogether.

Stephen Tindale, Greenpeace's Director, says: "By rewarding energy efficiency and increasing taxes on dangerous and polluting forms of transport, Brown can help to combat climate change and end fuel poverty".

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