European drivers face carbon caps

Car emissions could be included in the European carbon trading scheme, the UK's environment secretary said in a speech on Monday, bringing the prospect of caps on the amount EU citizens drive.

“We need to consider whether surface transport could become part of the EU emissions-trading scheme,” David Milliband told a Cambridge audience.

The scheme so far only covers large emitters like power plants and factories. Transport is expected to be next on the EU’s climate policy hit list. Aviation, targeted as the fastest growing source of transport emissions, is likely to be first to enter the ETS – a measure supported by most airlines as preferable to taxes on air travel.

“The goal could not be clearer: for reasons of energy security and climate security, take the carbon out of our fuel supplies. The means will be radical innovation in the private sector sponsored by clever use of all the tools available to government,” David Miliband said.

A range of policies besides the ETS have been proposed and implemented on the EU and member state levels, but most are voluntary. For example, European car manufacturers had promised to reduce average carbon emissions from new cars but have so far made little progress towards their self-imposed target of 140g CO2 /km by 2008.

EU attempts to impose binding limits on CO2 emissions from new cars failed to materialise in January (see <a href="" Title="Commission dithers on gas-guzzling car laws" related story) after opposition, notably from the German car industry.

Climate change campaigners argue that policies that make drivers pay for their carbon – such as the inclusion of transport in the ETS – and those that cut emissions per kilometre by improving car energy efficiency should be seen as complementary, not alternatives.

Smaller scale policies include obligatory CO2 labels on new cars already in force in France, and higher taxes for the most polluting cars contemplated by the Mayor of London.

Goska Romanowicz

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