Clean air drive targets dirty cars

A new plan for curbing air pollution, announced yesterday by Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias, will penalize motorists driving cars producing high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) with heavier taxes and restricted access to town centers. The move came two weeks after the European Commission suspended Greece from the Kyoto Protocol’s CO2 emissions trading protocol. The pollution-curbing plan will be based on a new system of calculating road tax depending on the level of pollution motorists inflict on the environment, rather than engine capacity, as is currently the case. Cars will be categorized from Alpha to Delta (with Alpha indicating zero or low emissions and Delta high pollution levels) and road taxes will be paid accordingly when the system is implemented next year. The «class» of each car will also determine the frequency of its access to the city center, Souflias said, noting that Alpha cars will have full access while Delta will only be admitted at weekends. Taxis will be excluded from the scheme. Another element of the plan is the gradual withdrawal of older, more polluting, cars from the roads. Drivers will be given financial incentives to switch to more environmentally friendly cars, Souflias said. In Greece the average car on the road is 12 years old compared to an average age of seven years in the EU-15. The ministry’ will also impose restrictions on industrial plants that make a sizable contribution to the CO2 emissions responsible for global warming. Also households will be obliged to switch their boilers from heating oil to natural gas within three years of pipeline access. «When it comes to air pollution, there are no magic solutions,» Souflias said. «For the measures to succeed we need citizens to contribute too.»