Discontent over London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone
In London, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which previously applied only to the city centre, has been extended to cover the entire city. Owners of vehicles that do not meet the emission standards must now pay a daily fee of approximately 14.50 euros for using their vehicle within the zone. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party, pushed through the expansion despite protests. Commentators express doubts about the measure.
A tax on the poor
Voters will make the mayor pay for this "eco panic", The Sun predicts:
“Here is a power-crazed Labour mayor, seeing that the lowest-paid are suffering worst in the cost-of-living crisis but pricing them off the roads too. He justifies his lucrative new tax on the poor with repeated platitudes about ‘cleaning the air’ — though London’s has not been cleaner in three centuries. ... Voters can boot him out next May for a rival not driven by fashionable, ideological eco panic.”
Clean air for all!
Anyone who cares about public health should welcome the new scheme, says The Guardian:
“Air pollution is estimated to cause 4,000 premature deaths each year in the capital, with nitrogen dioxide from exhausts being the main danger, along with particulate matter whose effect is likened by scientists to inhaling tiny particles of tar. Air pollution causes disproportionate harm to low-income families, who are most likely to live on main roads and least likely to own cars. It is particularly damaging to children’s growing lungs. That the mayor, Sadiq Khan, has defied pressure to delay or weaken the scheme is to his credit.”
This is not how you get people on board
Le Quotidien sympathises with the protesters and accuses the government of making the green transition unpalatable:
“Many cannot afford to change their vehicles, or live too far from their workplaces to use public transport. The bill is indeed steep. ... Just imagine if such a measure were taken in Luxembourg: you can already imagine the outcry. They are no longer talking about a green transition but rather a green guillotine in London. This is an odd way to try to encourage the entire population to change its behaviour. Now, they are just enraged.”
Create incentives rather than punishing taxes
Switzerland has learned from past mistakes and is taking a different approach to that in London, observes La Tribune de Genève:
“The CO2 law failed [in Switzerland] two years ago because it contained guilt-inducing new measures such as a tax on airline tickets. Now the Federal Council has learned its lesson: the new version planned for 2025 contains nothing of the sort. ... So it is questionable whether the introduction of a congestion charge like that in London would be a sensible option for Switzerland. Bern is examining various projects aimed at easing and reducing the traffic flow, but is rather cautious in statements regarding a new pricing system for mobility. In Switzerland, creating incentives works better than punishing people with taxes.”