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Emissions-based London congestion could increase greenhouse gases

11th January 2008 Print
Transport for London’s proposed changes to the London Congestion charge, in which cars of 120g/km CO2 and below could be exempted from payment, may actually increase the output of CO2 in the city, says Clean Green Cars. Evidence for this comes from an independent report (by AEA) commissioned by TfL itself, which suggests that ‘there could be an increase in the overall numbers of cars travelling within the zone,’ and that the consequent ‘increased congestion would mean all vehicles moving more slowly and hence increased CO2 emissions.’

Even if this increase does not occur, the same report concludes that the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions ‘would decline by between 1,200 tonnes and 8,200 tonnes (a reduction of between 0.3 per cent and 2 per cent) in 2009 as a result of the introduction of emissions related congestion charging.’

This reduction would be the equivalent of halting flight movements at Heathrow for between one and six days. Whilst Clean Green Cars thinks that an emission-based charge would play a valuable role in raising awareness of the varying environmental impact of different kinds of cars, it believes that reworking TfL’s proposed framework for an emission-based charge could have a more positive impact.

Clean Green Cars proposes that:

A stricter target of 110 g/km CO2 for cars qualifying for the lowest charge be applied

Vehicles achieving 110g/km or below should be charged £4 rather than being allowed in for nothing

Vehicles emitting more than over 225g/km should be charged £12 rather than £25

The 110g/km Threshold
Setting the threshold at 110g/km will diminish the risk, identified in the AEA report, of Londoners switching to 120g/km-and-below models in sufficient numbers to cause congestion to increase, making the changes self-defeating, as will the imposition of a £4 charge rather than the exemption currently proposed. The Congestion Charge is still intended to be a charge on congestion, Mayor Ken Livingstone has stressed, and it therefore makes sense to charge any vehicle that enters the zone.

The 110g/km limit would also encourage car manufacturers to work harder to develop cars with even lower emission. There are already several dozen models on sale emitting 120g/km CO2 or less, and more are arriving by the month because this is not a difficult target to reach. Far fewer 110g/km-and-below models are already on sale in the UK, including the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion, the SEAT Ibiza ecomotive and the new Mini diesel as well as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic hybrids.

The £12 charge for vehicles over 225g/km, reduced from the proposed £25, is designed to discourage potentially well-off owners of these vehicles buying an additional low-emission car instead of replacing their high-emission model.

For full details of Clean Green Cars’ proposed changes to the emissions-based London Congestion Charge, see