Paris, London, Rotterdam against diesel
PARIS — France is considering raising taxes on diesel over the next five years to end an advantage over petrol and encourage drivers to choose cleaner cars, Environment Minister Segolene Royal said.
Diesel’s image has been tarnished by health warnings and in the past month by revelations that Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests in the United States, putting countries like France that have promoted diesel cars in recent decades in an awkward position.
Royal, who is also responsible for transport, has in recent weeks rejected calls to ban diesel or end its tax breaks, but last weekend backed the idea of phasing out the fuel’s tax advantage. “We need to start preparing our move out of diesel right now,” she told France 5 television. “We should phase out diesel’s [tax] advantage over five years.”
She said that the fuel tax levied on diesel was currently 0,15 euros per litre lower than on petrol. Progressive increases in diesel taxes would be discussed during the debate on France’s 2016 budget bill, and should be offset by tax breaks for buying cleaner-fuel vehicles, she said.
This represents an aboutturn for the France government, which had in the 1960s opted to subsidise diesel cars because they were seen as less polluting than petrol in the days before catalytic converters became standard.
This led to diesel models today accounting for over 50% of all cars on French roads.
Diesel has faced growing criticism since the World Health Organisation in 2012 classified diesel engine exhaust as very carcinogenic.
City authorities have announced moves to restrict the fuel’s use in vehicles in London and Paris. The Volkswagen scandal has also undermined the traditional argument in favour of diesel that it has lower carbon emissions than petrol.
Minister Royal is not alone in her down-with-diesel view, which France already announced in 2012.
In July last year the Mayor of London Boris Johnson also announced his council’s intention to introduce plans to phase out diesel vehicles, which account for 40% of the capital’s air pollution.
The city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands is also looking to eliminate the worst-polluting cars on its streets, and plans to offer incentives for alternatives.
The city plans to upgrade its own fleet to cut pollution by 25%, and is considering banning older cars from its centre, according to Dutch News.
Rotterdam may stop issuing parking permits for diesel cars built before 2005, and petrol cars built before 1992, as well as offer the owners cash for scrapping the dirtiest cars.
Commercial trucks could also be banned from the Gravenijkwal — a major highway and currently Rotterdam’s most-polluted road.
As an alternative, the city also wants to install more electric-car charging stations and improve bike facilities.
The Netherlands has introduced national tax breaks to promote 200 000 electric cars on Dutch roads by 2020.
In South Africa, where 80% of all goods are delivered by truck, diesel will be the fuel for a long time yet, predicts the director of the Automotive Aftermarket Division at Bosch South Africa.