MEPs discuss green levies on lorries

Transport - 10-02-2009 - 13:20
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Will MEPs approve new green charges for trucks

Queue of lorries on a major road ©BELGA_MAXPPP_Pelaez Julio

Green issues continue to dominate the headlines, as MEPs from the Transport Committee vote Wednesday on possible new charges for lorries, based not only on CO2 emissions but other factors such as noise and air pollution and congestion. We asked some MEPs what they think about targeting trucks and where the newly generated taxes should be spent.

Belgian Socialist Saïd El Khadraoui, who is steering the proposals through parliament, said this legislation is needed to curb the damaging effects caused by the transport sector. "The transport sector should make an effort in order to limit the costs it causes to society. We want to develop a system where external costs are paid by the one who cause them and no longer by the community as a whole."

CO2 emissions

  • Transport accounts for 27%
  • of which road transport accounts for 73%
Compromise is key
The proposals are being fiercely contested. The Commission proposed that air and noise pollution and congestion be taxed. Some MEPs want CO2 levies to be added, while others are opposed to a congestion charge.
Mr El Khadraoui is optimistic that a compromise can be reached and says any new taxes on congestion should include cars: "I proposed a compromise to incorporate congestion, obliging Member States that want to put congestion in their system to ensure that other vehicles - like cars - are also subject to a similar tax."
Dutch Christian Democrat, Corien Wortmann-Kool is opposed to the congestion clause. "It won't make traffic jams go away. They are also caused by cars on the roads. So to tax trucks for congestion will not solve it but would increase costs for the transport sector," she said.
Fellow Dutch MEP and Independent and Democratic party member Hans Blokland said a CO2 tax is "not necessary. They are already incorporated in fuel excises." Ms Wortmann-Kool agreed. "I am against double taxation."
Austrian Green Eva Lichtenberger said external costs should be looked as a whole saying: "There are of course more cars than trucks on the road but trucks represent in many ways a greater nuisance; they damage the roads more severely and cause more emissions."
Reinvestment of revenues in alternative modes of transport
The Commission proposes that all the revenue generated from new charges should be reinvested in greener transport. MEPs support investment into alternative technologies.
"You could use the money for maintenance and improvement of infrastructure, for example with noise taxes you could pay for sound walls," Mr Blokland said. Belgian Liberal Dirk Sterckx said, "The income could be used to reduce the external costs such as noise, for example by developing a new kind of quieter asphalt."
Will the reinvestment plans receive the backing of the Council?
EU countries also have to back the proposals and MEPs are concerned that they may be opposed to tieing up revenue.
"The transport ministers want to use revenue generated to improve the transport and finance ministers do not want Europe to dictate how they should spend the money they receive," Mr Sterckx  said.
Mr El Khadraoui said, "It will be difficult but we do not see this as an ordinary tax, this is a levy on external costs with the intention to decrease these external costs."
REF.: 20090205STO48540