Richmond-upon-Thames goes "green" with parking.

It looks like politicians have found yet another way that they can use climate change to justify new charges on motorists.  This time it’s a green charge on parking, as Richmond-upon- Thames council becomes the first local authority in the world to set parking charges for drivers based upon their vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions.

From today tariffs in all car parks and on street pay and display parking bays in Richmond are based on vehicle emissions. The rate will be 25 per cent above the standard rate for vehicles with CO2 emissions of 186 g/km or above and 50 percent below the standard rate for vehicles with CO2 emissions of 120 g/km or less. According to the council the main aim of the policy is to influence the motorist’s choice of vehicle towards ones which are more environmentally friendly and help the local council meet their targets for emissions.

Councillor David Trigg stated “Global warming is one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime and many people simply don’t realise the influence on the planet that their choice of vehicle makes.”

This is a bold statement from the councillor, particularly because the council’s policy will not provide many motorists within Richmond a discounted rate for parking. With the lower tariff applicable to vehicles with CO2 emissions of 120 g/km or less even motorists who own small and relatively fuel efficient cars will not be eligible to pay a lower parking charge.   Many motorists who have thought about the environmental ramifications of driving a vehicle- and purchased a reasonably eco-friendly vehicle- will not be rewarded by such a scheme.

This is exemplified by the 1.2 petrol Nissan Micra, which emits 139 g/km of CO2 emissions and therefore would not qualify for the discounted parking tariff and drivers would still pay the standard parking tariff. In fact, out of all the 10 Micra models only drivers of the 1.5 dci 86 diesel model would be entitled to pay the lower parking rate within Richmond.

The policy will also push additional costs on motorists who already pay higher VED.  This not only includes motorists who drive high end sport cars but also many who just own fairly normal family cars. For example most models of Vauxhall Zafira- a popular vehicle for families- emit higher levels of CO2 than 186 g/km as do most almost all the Volvo V70 models and all the Volvo XC90s.

What Councillor Trigg fails to recognise is that motorists who buy people carriers and family estates do so because they need a vehicle with more space, so they can take care of little things like family holidays and going to the shops.  A family of five for example are going to struggle in an eco-friendly Smart car (or even a Nissan Micra) and may find a Lexus Hybrid 4X4 at £40,000 a bit expensive (incidentally the 400h model is eligible for the premium parking tariff with its CO2 emissions at 192 g/km.) Their choice to buy a vehicle like a Vauxhall Zafira is driven by necessity.

It is simply unfair for Richmond-upon- Thames borough council to place such an onus on motorists’ vehicle choice as being the primary cause of negative effects on the planet. This is another policy that will place a greater burden on motorists, with many owners of fuel efficient cars not receiving the lower parking rate and owners of larger family vehicles facing higher parking charges. Motorists already pay VED, which attempts to encourage people to buy low emission vehicles.  Anyone buying a car that creates a lot of emissions will also have to pay more in Fuel Duty.  TaxPayers’ Alliance research has shown that taxes on motorists are already massively excessive compared to their impact on the environment. There is simply no need for emissions to be factored into parking charges as well. 

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