Diesel cars are worse for the climate and warrant higher tax

Diesel cars are worse for the climate and warrant higher tax

James Nix is published in the Financial Times with regards to the impact of diesel cars on the climate:

“Europe has ducked its obligations on diesel cars” noted the FT on Saturday (31 Oct), adding that EU limits on NOx and particulate emissions should be enforced. The FT also touched on one of reasons diesel has, to date, been favoured in the EU, suggesting that diesel engines were “more efficient in terms of C02 emissions”.

This may have been the case in the 1990s but by 2010 the design of petrol engines had improved to the point that diesel no longer held any climate advantage over petrol. In 2014 the OECD reviewed the issue in depth and concluded that litre for litre, diesel is 15 – 18% worse for the climate than petrol. A diesel car may travel further on a litre of fuel, the OECD acknowledged, but this is typically a private gain, not a public one. The OECD urged Member States to re-balance their tax systems to no longer favour diesel.

Member States where diesel car sales continue to significantly outweigh sales of petrol, hybrid and electric cars are the most exposed. Figures for 2014 show diesel cars accounted for 73 to 70% of new purchases in Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal. Below this is a group of seven countries where diesel car sales account for 65 to 55% of new purchases – Spain (65%), France (64), Greece (63), Belgium (62), Sweden (59), Austria (57) and Italy (55). Sales of new cars in the UK are split 50-50, while diesels make up 48% of new sales in Germany.

Belgium and France have already moved, pledging to close the gap between their diesel and petrol taxes over 3 and 5 years respectively. For other member states with high diesel car sales, it makes sense to do the same. The longer reform is delayed, the worse the problem gets.

James Nix,

Green Budget Europe

Access letter in the Financial Times here

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