Policy Exchange, a UK-based think tank, suggests road taxes should be raised on new diesel cars to improve air quality.
The group suggests that the government should increase the first vehicle exercise duty (VED) rate for new diesel vehicles in order to reflect their bigger contribution to high levels of air polution. The group says the measure would raise £500 million of additional revenue a year which is "the equivalent of increasing fuel duty by one pence per litre."
The think tank suggests that the revenue generated from an increased VED rate could be used to provide a £2,000 grant to motorists who choose to leave their high emission diesel vehicles for lower emission vehicles such as petrol, hybrid and electric cars. Their hope is that this would solve high pollution levels in the UK.
Policy Exchange's call to action comes in the wake of one of their reports finding that 12.5 per cent of London exceeded legal and healthy limits for nitrogen dioxide in 2010. This, they say is caused by the latest diesel cars who have shown some improvement but still exceed emission standards by an average of four times.
Over the last 15 years, the government has encouraged motorists to purchase diesel vehicles with VED, Company Car Tax, and Capital Allowances, all tied to lower CO2 vehicles. As a result ,diesel cars have increased from 14 per cent of the car population in Great Britain in 2001, to 36 per cent of the car population today.
Richard Howard, head of environment and energy at Policy Exchange, suggests that the government should increase taxes on new diesel cars and offer grants encouraging their removal instead of banning them outright or increasing fuel duties for individuals who purchase diesel cars in good faith.
“If we are to clean up air pollution, then Government needs to recognise that diesel is the primary cause of the problem, and to promote a shift to alternatives," Howard said. "This needs to be done in a way which does not unduly penalise existing diesel drivers, who bought their vehicle in good faith, and gives motorists sufficient time to respond."