With the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accusing VW of “wilful and systematic” use of emission cheating devices in their diesel cars; Australia also pursuing now a similar path this week; and the South Korean’s threatening not to certifying VW vehicles, when is our government going to drive us away from diesel as well? This is precisely what was being asked of me after a talk l did on “Tackling the impact od Diesel in European Cities” at Better Air Quality Conference in Busan, South Korea. It’s all very well telling us what major cities in Europe are doing but what about the national governments of Europe and the EU of course really doing as the US leads on the issue when it is not actual hooked on diesel cars in the same way as we are in Europe.
The over stating of the CO2 global emissions benefits of diesel while increasing local emissions of NOx has been a very European experience. With at least in France it’s PM Manuel Valls apologising for getting it wrong with diesel in an attempt to reduce CO2 as a measure for climate protection at the beginning of the century, something we did as well without the apology and admittance of guilt yet. Furthermore, in recent official probes of Renault emission discrepancies were omitted and green groups have suggested the France state has a conflict of interest, as it has 15 per cent stakes in both Renault and Citroen.
In Germany the government also has a similar struggle with its car manufacturer to the French as their federal government structure does not want to give up diesel tax breaks under strong lobbying by companies like VW, BMW and Audi. While its cities push for city bans of older diesels, its car industry retorts “ it would be fundamental mistake to bad mouth diesel whoever supports climate protection…you can’t forget diesel”
Unfortunately it’s the same with us though with a different type of tax break. Since 2001, there has been a 3p cut in lowsulphur diesel in a bid to cut carbon emissions by encouraging motorists to drive diesel cars. As for the European Union (EU) we can’t expect similar action against French & German car manufacturers as is being undertaken by US authorities quite yet. After all it’s the EU standards which are at fault. Tests conducted by International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) show that modern diesel cars emit as much as 7 times the EU limits for NOx in real world conditions. Furthermore, now we going out of EU we can not rely on their directives and commissioners taking action to reverse the harm to Londoners life’s with the silent killer that is air pollution and particular problems with NOx. There is talk of another Clean Air Act like the 1956 Act targeted at NOx but this doesn’t immediately get away from the fiscal incentives for diesel for the car driver we have already.
If we don’t, it risks undermining all our city initiatives to reduce air pollution including those in London by the new Mayor through the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). After all the diesel issue explains the lack of progress made in Greater London since 2008.
So maybe we could start with government hiking up diesel fuel duty by getting rid of the 3 p duty advantage for diesel fuel from the beginning of the century.