Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has backed a proposal to offer cash to encourage motorists to trade in old diesel-engined cars for more modern, cleaner vehicles.
Under the proposed scheme, which would effectively be a diesel-specific revival of the vehicle scrappage initiative that ran between 2009 and 2010, motorists would be offered a grant of between £1000 and £2000 to replace cars that don’t meet modern emissions standards.
Giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee in London yesterday, Johnson said this was “a brilliant opportunity to support the British car industry and promote the early uptake of ultra low emission vehicles”.
He also expressed sympathy for motorists who had heeded previous government advice to buy more frugal and expensive diesel cars, only for policy makers to change their minds in light of more recent research which suggests particulates in diesel emissions contribute to health issues.
“What we’re saying is it should be between one and two thousand pounds for people who have been seduced into buying a diesel vehicle,” he said.
“I feel very sorry for them. This has been a massive failure of public policy. Millions of people were told that they were doing the environmentally friendly thing by buying a diesel vehicle and they now feel very hacked off that suddenly they’re being told that their vehicles are polluting.
“They deserve support and you could use the diesel scrappage scheme to stimulate the market for cleaner vehicles as the 2009 scheme did."
Johnson estimated that the diesel scrappage scheme would cost the government about £300m, which was the same amount set aside for the original initiative.
The scheme is part of the Mayor’s proposals for an Ultra Low Emission Zone, which could be introduced in central London from 2020.
Charging diesel cars that pollute more to enter the capital is a key part of the ULEZ, and consultation on the zone will begin in late October. It is estimated that the ULEZ would take London two-thirds of the way to compliance with EU limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
The UK is being fined by the European Commission for non-compliance with the EU’s air quality directive, although it is not alone – of the 28 EU states only Malta meets current criteria.
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