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09/04/08 - A Price Worth Paying: Making Road Charging Work for Europe

On 9 April 2008, the Slovenian Presidency of the EU in cooperation with T&E, the European Federation for Transport and Environment, hosted a major international conference on the future of road charging in Europe. The discussion focussed on economic, technical and political aspects of road charging for HGVs and experiences in Europe, in the context of the preparation of a new EU legislative framework on fair and efficient pricing.

Lifetime costs

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The Commission’s long-awaited draft legislation on the rules for public authorities to buy road vehicles came out in December, and as expected they will require all authorities in the EU to consider the lifetime cost of pollution emissions and fuel consumption. The principle of bodies such as public transport authorities paying more for vehicles that are environmentally better than cheaper options has been accepted for some time, but the new legislation proposes a harmonised EU methodology for calculating the lifecycle costs of fuel, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and particulate matter. One study predicts the proposed law could save up to 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2017.

Record fine

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The French oil company Total has been given the largest-ever fine imposed in Europe for damage caused to the environment. At the end of a long trial, a criminal court in Paris last month found Total guilty of ‘ecological prejudice’ and recklessness over the oil spill from the tanker Erika off the coast of France and Spain in 1999. Total and three other parties were ordered to pay €192 million for the environmental damage caused, after evidence was presented showing they ignored risks in the ageing tanker. Total has said it may appeal, but it might also face claims for more damages.

Unfair claim

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The Belgian advertising authority has condemned the Swedish car maker Saab for claiming unjustifiable environmental benefits for one of its cars. Saab has been advertising that its new ‘biopower’ car has no environmental impact, but environmental groups have threatened legal action over the claim. Official fuel consumption figures show Saab is among the worst performers on the Belgian market.

'Award' for anti-CO2 lobbying

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BMW, Daimler and Porsche have won a ‘Worst EU Lobbying Award’ for their lobbying to water down and delay the EU’s obligatory CO2 emissions targets. The awards, which are organised by a group of NGOs who monitor corporate behaviour, were voted for by 6600 people across Europe in an on-line poll. The three car companies were joint winners alongide a German nuclear power lobbying organisation.

Baltic NOx

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Countries bordering the Baltic Sea have called for tighter international regulations to prevent a predicted sharp increase in emissions of nitrogen oxides from ships in the Baltic. In a letter to the International Maritime Organisation, the Helsinki Commission, which groups countries with a Baltic coastline, said the IMO must be strict when it approves new emission limits for NOx and sulphur oxides in March.

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