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Monday 11 December 2017

Ministers 'aware' of diesel's impact, but we're no closer to new car policies

The Government, like many others across Europe, is coming under pressure to take further steps as diesel’s impact on health is constantly highlighted. Stock picture
The Government, like many others across Europe, is coming under pressure to take further steps as diesel’s impact on health is constantly highlighted. Stock picture
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The Government insists it is 'aware' of the impact diesel vehicles can have on air quality and claims a number of 'initiatives' are being pursued across several departments.

But there are no immediate indications of major policy decisions to shepherd in new measures to discourage diesel use in urban areas - or more incentives to switch to alternative power sources.

The Government, like many others across Europe, is coming under pressure to take further steps as diesel's impact on health is constantly highlighted.

Focus on the fuel has been intensified by the UK government's recent outline of planned measures on diesel to improve air quality.

While roundly derided for being aspirational and passing the buck to local authorities, the fact those plans could lead to a diesel scrappage scheme for older vans and cars has prompted speculation that something similar could be on the cards here.

However, a step towards equalisation of prices at the pumps - where diesel costs 10c per litre less - and businesses being allowed to claim back VAT on petrol are speculated as being more realistic targets for this autumn's Budget.

Read More: This could be the first real test of our grand love affair with the 'oil-burner'

Such speculation, and negative publicity about diesel generally, appears to be raising concerns among consumers in terms of what they buy. New-car registrations of diesels so far this year have dipped from 70.40pc of the total market in 2016 to 66.23pc for the first four months of this year, according to the Society of the Irish Motor Industry statistics. Petrol-powered cars now account for 30.03pc of new registrations compared with 27.5pc last year.

A Department of Finance spokesperson told the Irish Independent that ministers are aware of the impact diesels can have on air quality.

She outlined how the Programme for Partnership Government identifies a number of measures to reduce emissions. These included public transport investment and "making Ireland a leader in the take-up of electric vehicles" - something that has abjectly failed so far.

The spokesperson pointed to a series of tax incentives to encourage greater use of 'greener' hybrid and electric vehicles.

In his last Budget, Finance Minister Michael Noonan challenged the industry and car buyers to go electric when he extended VRT relief (€5,000) on electric vehicles for five years.

In the UK, the measures are still some way off, with government officials there stressing that any scheme would need to provide value for money and minimise the scope for fraud.

One proposal could mean scrapped cars having to be replaced by a full-electric model.

Irish Independent

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