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Dirty vehicles to be banned from Geneva

Dirty vehicles to be banned from Geneva

A new environmental zone will see the dirtiest vehicles banned from the centre of Geneva, Switzerland, and the surrounding area.

From 15 January 2020, a temporary zone will be activated when air pollution in the Swiss city is at its highest. It will be operational from 6am until 10pm.

Vehicles will be measured on their environmental performance and must display one of six coloured Stick’Air vignettes. Green is for zero emission vehicles, while grey is for the least environmentally friendly cars. The emergency services and drivers with disabilities are exempt from the scheme.

Initially, vehicles displaying the grey vignette will be banned from the environmental zone during the period of peak pollution. If the smog persists, the ban will extend to vehicles showing the brown sticker, then orange, yellow and purple.

The stickers cost 5 Swiss francs (£4) and are valid for the life of the vehicle. Drivers who do not display a vignette or enter the city during the smog alert will be fined 500 francs (£400). Commercial vehicles will be granted a two-year transitional period to comply with the new law.

Under the regulations, the authorities could also introduce an 80km/h (50mph) speed limit on surrounding motorways, free public transport to encourage locals and tourists to leave their cars at home, and a ban on outdoor fires.

Geneva clean air stickers

‘Right to breathe healthy air’

Antonio Hodgers, a Geneva councillor, said: “We have adopted a compromise between economic freedom and the right to breathe healthy air.”

Nearly 500,000 people live in the canton of Geneva, with around 200,000 people living in the city. This is the first environmental zone of its kind in the country, although Geneva’s proximity to France and Italy, plus the fact that it is home to more than 130 multinational companies, makes it a particularly high profile case.

It also plays host to a major international motor show

The stickers can be purchased from council offices and petrol stations. More information can be found here.

Motorists want tougher penalties for idling drivers

Tougher fines for idling drivers

There are calls for drivers who leave their engines running when parked to be fined.

Seventy-two percent of the drivers questioned in a new survey want local councils to tackle the problem, while 44 percent believe officials should have the power to issue fines if they refuse.

Under section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988(4), a driver can be fined £20 for a stationary idling offence, but few councils enforce this.

In June, the government announced a public consultation on proposals to impose tougher penalties on idling drivers.

Then transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are determined to crack down on drivers who pollute our communities by leaving their engines running, particularly outside school gates where our children are breathing in this toxic air.

“Putting a stop to idling is an easy way to drive down dangerously high levels of pollution, reducing its impact on the environment and our health.”

Cost ahead of the environment

Traffic in Bristol

Around a quarter of the drivers surveyed by the RAC believe motorists should be told to switch off WITHOUT issuing a fine, whereas two percent think offenders should be fined without any warning.

It would appear that drivers are becoming more sensitive to the issue of vehicle emissions and the impact on air quality in our towns and cities. Indeed, more than half of the drivers surveyed said they are more concerned than they were three years ago.

However, when asked WHY they would not leave their engines idling when parked, a financial benefit was put ahead of the environment. Thirty-seven percent said they switch off to save a little on fuel, while 35 percent said they do it to improve air quality.

Just under a third claim it never occurs to them to turn off.

Like the carrier bag charge

delays and congestion up in 2018

Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “It is clear from our research that the vast majority of drivers are far more aware of the impact of vehicle emissions than they were three years ago.

“They are conscious of pollution from parked vehicles running their engines needlessly to the point they want to see local councils taking some form of action against those who do this. At the very least they would like a council official to speak to those who do it and ask them to switch off.

“Councils already have the powers to deal with this problem, but few are currently doing so. Many of the drivers we questioned would like to see some firm action taken against offenders. This is no doubt needed to bring about a change in behaviour.

“You could liken the current situation with engine idling to that of taking your own carrier bags to the supermarket: everyone knew it was the right thing to do, but few of us did it until a compulsory charge was introduced. While the law is already in place for idling, enforcement is limited, if not non-existent.

“The presence of enforcement officers and ‘no engine idling’ signs, complete with penalties, must be the next step in making our urban environments better for everyone who lives, drives and works in them.”

Extinction Rebellion uses dirty diesel for climate change protest

Extinction Rebellion fire engine

Turning up to protest about climate change in a dirty diesel is a little like going to thrash metal concert and complaining about the noise.

But as Extinction Rebellion arrived in Whitehall in a 21-year-old fire truck to paint the town red, it became abundantly clear that the protesters hadn’t considered the irony of their choice of transport. After all, an 8.3-litre diesel engine is about as welcome in central London as a fox in a henhouse.

From one drama to another

It would appear that Extinction Rebellion paid £5,000 for the former Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service Dennis Sabre back in August. Cheaper than a Dacia Sandero, then, but not as good for the planet.

It’s not the first time the fire engine has been in the public eye: the eBay ad lists an appearance on Holby City as one of its selling points. You could say it’s gone from one drama to another.

The old Dennis diesel sat outside Treasury smoking like a 70s snooker player as the Extinction Rebellion protestors struggled to contain their hose. It turned the protest into something that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Top Gear, as the fake blood coated the steps and pavement outside the Grade One listed building.

Forget London’s Burning, this was more like London’s Turning… Red.

Clearly, climate change is a serious business. Only a chump with rubbish hair and a penchant for walls would deny that we need to do something to reverse the damage that’s being done to our planet. We can all play a part.

But buying an 8.3-litre diesel fire engine in Northampton and then driving it into central London isn’t going to save the world.

With a strong wind behind it and a clear road ahead, the Dennis Sabre could probably muster 8, maybe 9 miles per gallon. Fine if you’re putting out fires or starring alongside Tina Hobley, but not so great when you’re protesting against “the vast sums [the government] pours into fossil fuel exploration”.

Maybe they should have used a Green Goddess…

Ban regular car sales by 2035 or face ‘dire consequences’, says report

The government should not wait until 2040 to ban the sale of ‘conventional’ new cars and vans.

That’s one of a number of hard-hitting recommendations laid out by the Science and Technology Committee in its report on clean growth.

“The UK is not even on course to meet its existing legally binding targets for 2023 and 2032”, it says, and petrol and diesel cars are at the centre of the problem.

In 2017, the government announced plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, with all conventional vehicles banned from the road by 2050. But environmental groups have called for the ban to be brought forward.

Last year, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said that it “may be necessary for the sales of petrol and diesel vehicles to end by 2035”.

It called for ultra-low emission vehicles to account for 60 percent of the new car market by 2030 to “keep open the possibility of 100 percent of new sales by 2035”.

But the government isn’t doing enough, says the Science and Technology Committee, and “urgent action is required to reverse the current policy trend of cut backs and slow progress”.

Ban cars by 2035 at the latest

ban cars sooner

Ten areas of shortfall have been identified in a wide-ranging report. The government has been slammed for not delivering a promised White Paper on ‘The future of the energy market’, and there are concerns over the complexity of obtaining planning permission for onshore wind farms.

The cut in the plug-in car grant for the lowest-emission cars, the abolition of the grant for other low-emission cars and the freeze in fuel duty are the shortfalls relating to cars.

The Committee has made a series of recommendations to get the UK ready for net-zero by 2050. The priorities for transport include:

  • Bring forward the date of the proposed ban on the sales of petrol and diesel cars to 2035 at the latest.
  • Ensure the ban covers hybrid vehicles.
  • Reconsider the fiscal incentives for consumers to purchase new AND used low emission vehicles.
  • Accelerate the deployment of electric vehicle charge points.
  • Introduce measures to ensure that charge points are interoperable and compatible with a smart energy system.

Crucially, the report says that the government “should not aim to achieve emissions reductions simply by replacing existing vehicles with lower-emission versions”. 

“Their manufacturer generates substantial emissions,” it warns, so “widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation”.

‘Dire consequences for the environment’

Norman Lamb MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: “Parliament has declared a climate emergency.

“The worrying effects of climate change, such as heatwaves, wildfires and flooding are already occurring at an alarming rate and will have a huge impact on future generations. 

“If governments across the world fail to act, it will have dire consequences for the environment and generations to come.

“The scale of the challenge cannot be underestimated.”

‘Giving up on emerging science and technology’

Motoring organisations have been quick to shift the spotlight away from personal cars, with the decarbonisation of light commercial vehicles viewed as a priority.

Edmund King, AA president, told BBC News: “Stating that widespread personal vehicle ownership isn’t compatible with significant decarbonisation seems to be giving up on emerging science and technology.

“Technology is developing at a rapid rate with great potential from more efficient electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

“More emphasis should be going into renewable energy and greener vehicle production rather than higher fuel duty or banning hybrids, as the report recommends.

“The fastest growth in traffic is by vans due to internet deliveries so more technological effort should be put into decarbonising that sector as a priority.”

Diesel pollution levels

Just 10% of diesel cars meet legal air pollution limit

Diesel pollution levels

Just one in 10 diesel-engined cars on the road meets EU air pollution limits, according to environmental lobbying   group Transport and Environment (T&E).

The new Euro 6 emissions standard was introduced on 1 September, but only 10% of cars tested complied with it. Audi and Opel (Vauxhall in the UK) were among the worst offenders.

T&E discovered that, on average, diesel cars pump out emissions five times greater than the allowed limit. The worst new car, an Audi, emitted 22 times as much. Only three out of the 23 tested cars met the new standard.

The problem, says T&E, is Europe’s outdated emissions testing system, which allows carmakers to use cheaper and less effective exhaust treatment systems for diesels sold here. As the infographic below shows, diesel cars sold by the same manufacturers in the US have better exhaust treatment systems and emit less.

Exhaust treatment systemsA new on-road test is due that will measure ‘real-world’ emissions from diesels. However, it won’t arrive until 2018 at the earliest. And, with diesel after-treatment systems costing around £220 per car, manufacturers aren’t in a rush to introduce them.

Greg Archer, T&E’s clean vehicles manager, said: “Every new diesel car should now be clean but just one in 10 actually is. This is the main cause of the air pollution crisis affecting cities. Carmakers sell clean diesels in the US, and testing should require manufacturers to sell them in Europe too.”

In the UK, the number of diesel cars on the road has risen from 1.6 million to 12 million since 1994.

Lexus NX

Hybrid’s time has come says Lexus

Lexus NXAfter years of diesel dominance, petrol-electric hybrid cars are set to thrive in Europe, believes Toyota Motor Europe vice president Alain Uyttenhoven – and it’s the environment and emissions that will drive the shift.

Diesels sales have grown dramatically over the past decade because of a legislative focus on CO2 emissions. “It’s easy to measure,” said Uyttenhoven.

But “cars have now reached a certain level of CO2 – the next big discussion will be NOx particles, and these are far more damaging to humans.”

It is here where diesels will struggle.

“The cost of purifying diesel cars will add to their costs – and some cities such as Paris are actually taking about banning diesels from the city centre within the next two to three years.

“Hybrids are the next stage solution.”

The fact diesels only dominate within Europe also doesn’t help them, said Uyttenhoven. Outside Europe, diesel is almost irrelevant. “It seems like I’m coming from Mars when I talk about diesel with colleagues from other countries.”

Even factors such as commonplace stop-start is not helping diesel. “Diesels vibrate when they start back up, and people don’t like this.” Hybrids, in contrast, generally run on electric at low speeds – “a test we ran a few years ago found city centre driving was 50% EV mode”.

However, despite Lexus’ newfound advantage in not having a diesel car in its range, the brand is not going to engage in negative marketing to highlight its environmental benefits. “We’re not going to go finger-pointing at diesels – rather, we simply want to be see as a strong alternative to those who may wish to exchange a diesel car for hybrid.”

Volkswagen XL1

Volkswagen Group sends stern warning to eco critics

Volkswagen XL1Volkswagen Group boss Martin Winterkorn has fired a warning shot to critics and politicians who accuse it of environmental complacency, stressing VW is already spending billions to meet strict emissions standards well ahead of target. Read more

London Mayor Boris Johnson

Diesel scrappage scheme call by Boris Johnson

London Mayor Boris JohnsonLondon Mayor Boris Johnson says diesel drivers should be given £2000 to scrap their “more polluting” cars and correct a failure of public policy. Read more

Eco education: go back to school and save £440 million

Nissan Leaf school runUsing Ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) for the school run could save motorists up to £440 million a year, according to campaign group, Go Ultra Low. Read more

The-Sun-Pay-up-Diesel-Weasels

The Sun launches diesel driver compensation campaign

The-Sun-Pay-up-Diesel-WeaselsThe Sun has launched a campaign to seek compensation for drivers it says have been ‘seduced’ into buying diesels and who now face large fines as a result. Read more