London: Making Motorists Pay for Their Emissions

Date: 18 Jun 2007 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

London Mayor Ken Livingstone wants to further reduce the City’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by making motorists take financial responsibility for their own emissions. The first approach set to begin in February 2008 is the establishment of a Low Emissions Zone. The second approach still under debate would modify the current congestion fee by establishing an Emissions Influenced Charging Structure.

The Low Emissions Zone (covering particulates, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and NOx emissions), beginning in February 2008, would require drivers of buses, large trucks, and vans to adhere to certain emissions standards or pay a daily fee of approximately $200-$400. The hope is the fee will induce motorists to make the necessary changes to their vehicles, rather than pay the daily fee.

Mayor Livingstone’s other measure, which is still in the approval stages, is an Emissions Influenced Charging Structure. Basically, the more GHG a vehicle emits, the higher the cost would be to enter London. This is an addendum to the Congestion Pricing Scheme implemented in 2003, which required cars to pay a $15 fee to enter London regardless of their emissions profile. In 2006, congestion charging raised 254 million pounds or approximately $500 million. The new proposal grants a 100% discount to low-emitting vehicles (120g/km CO2 or less) and a $48 fee to vehicles that emit more than 225g/km CO2. Other vehicles will continue to pay the already-established $15 fee.

It is projected that implementation of both of these policies will continue to lower London’s GHG emissions already achieved by the congestion pricing scheme. Since inception, the 2003 measure is credited with lowering transportation related CO2 by 20%, in addition to alleviating congestion and raising average traffic speed. Singapore, Stockholm, and Norway have implemented similar measures and have also experienced reductions in emissions, traffic, traffic accidents, along with increased use in public transportation.

The congestion pricing scheme is making its way across the Atlantic. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hoping to institute a similar measure to what London has done. He has proposed to implement an $8 fee for cars and $21 fee for trucks to drive into Manhattan below 86th Street on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The revenue generated from this policy would be used to finance mass transit projects.

With U.S. cities and states increasingly focused on setting GHG emissions targets, congestion pricing and low emissions zones are sure to be in the policy mix in major metro areas.


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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.