Not all the controversy produced by the British High Court last week was related to Brexit! There was also a ruling that could result in some trouble ahead for UK diesel drivers.
Following a case brought against the UK government by ClientEarth, an environmental legal group, the High Court ruled that the UK is doing nowhere near enough to meet air pollution targets. Nitrogen emissions from diesel vehicles were singled out as a particular problem, with ministers accused of relying on “optimistic” tests. A big takeaway from the ruling was that the government “must be tougher on diesel.”
It’s undeniable that many people who have chosen to drive diesels have a right to feel affronted by the government’s “about face” on such vehicles in recent years. Not that long ago, people were actively encouraged to move in a diesel direction – before scientific research resulted in the government changing tack.
New taxes for UK diesel drivers?
One idea being mentioned is the prospect of drivers of more polluting vehicles having to pay daily charges to drive into the centre of a number of UK cities. No doubt many diesel drivers would see this as very unfair, especially if they purchased their car while the use of diesels was being encouraged rather than discouraged.
In reaction to this, something else being proposed is the idea of a scrappage scheme for polluting vehicles, to give people an incentive to trade in for something “greener.”
However, it’s hard not to see the whole situation as a rather depressing comedy of errors. Early next year, new road tax changes will see the incentive to choose a low emission vehicle somewhat compromised, with only zero emission cars exempt from excise duty. On top of this, it was separately announced last week that company car taxes will soon increase, with some pundits theorising that the move will further reduce the benefit of selecting a vehicle that’s kinder to the environment.
The emissions muddle the country finds itself in is largely down to an approach to diesels that was wrong in the past. It’s therefore increasingly important that the current government gets all of these policies, incentives, and “discouragements,” aligned and coordinated this time around – something it’s fair to say we’re falling short of right now.