Most of us will know someone killed by air pollution, but it would not be immediately obviousby Duncan Weldon / July 7, 2016 / Leave a comment
The “diesel-gate” scandal of last year, in which Volkswagen was revealed to be rigging emission tests, has focused public and policy maker attention on the issue of harmful emissions from diesel vehicles. Since the late 1980s, diesel cars and vans have made up an increasing proportion of new vehicles sold in Britain and across the European Union. In the UK they now represent almost four in ten cars on the road, compared to closer to one in 20 in the early 1990s.
The move to diesel, an area in which European car manufacturers have always had an advantage over their America and Japanese rivals, was strongly encouraged by policy makers through tax incentives and environmental regulations at both the national and the European level. There was a perception that, although diesel was known to have a bigger impact on air quality than petrol, it produced fewer carbon emissions and a switch to diesel would help slow climate change.
Since then three things have fundamentally changed. Advances in hybrid and electronic cars have produced a form of mass transport which avoids a trade-off between climate change and air quality, the emissions scandal has shown that this trade off may have always been worse than assumed, and there has been a growing recognition that increased NOX levels from diesel vehicles are creating what has been called a public health emergency. In the UK alone, air pollution is contributing to 40,000 to 52,000 premature deaths annually.
This is the background to a new policy report produced for Green Budget Europe (GBE), the campaigning organisation fighting to shift taxation away from labour and on to pollution both in Britain and in Europe. It was launched at a roundtable assembled by Prospect in collaboration with GBE.James Nix, GBE’s Director, emphasised that the UK was looking to reform road tax rates in July 2017 and now was the time to pushing for more radical options. The report, authored by Paul Drummond and Professor Paul Ekins, both of University College London, outlines four options for policymakers. The aim is to introduce a national supplementary NOX tax on newly sold diesel…