Early in my career in the 1980s, while working in what is now Transport for London, I was part of a team that introduced a supposedly clean air measure that became imbedded in law that only now, over 30 years later, is TfL looking to change. The London Lorry Control Scheme did manage to reduce emissions to an extent, but at a cost to the freight industry that was not proportionate.
Once again today, there is a wave of enthusiasm for the latest fashion in public policy, diesel restrictions and even bans – yet it wasn’t so long ago that we were being told that diesel was the answer to high CO2 emitting petrol. However, it is important that we don’t repeat our policy failures of the past in our rush to act to curb emissions and particulates, without thinking of the unintended consequences.
It is a trope to say that industry needs certainty, but as the number of cities with clean air measures in Europe rises by almost 36% from 250 cities to 340 by 2018, according to IDA Group projections, it is very difficult for industry to keep up, let alone plan ahead. The car and HGV with a lifespan of 15-20 years or more that is being built today might be illegal within a couple of years.
What’s more, we are now at saturation point for cities that have measures – it is now more a case of how many and which measures. Low emission zones are almost now a standard, with cities such as Stuttgart, London, Paris, and Madrid leading the trend for further access restrictions, weight regulations, zero-emission zones and even complete diesel bans.
When I speak to city representatives, they keep telling me about the latest publicly available consultation here, and planning reports there, but, barring the odd conference, there is little joined up thinking. Are we about to see a major breach of the single market where a car or lorry can no longer drive from one city to another without a tonne of paperwork?
What can businesses do to make sure they are ahead of the curve?
- Track the trends, engage in consultations, shape solutions: to ensure the sustainability and vitality of cities
- Encourage the EU to promote transparency, interoperability, best practice, while still respecting subsidiarity – it is vital we don’t fragment the single market
- Encourage policymakers at EU, national and city level to look at the political, social, economic, financial and environmental impact – the unintended consequences could be with us for decades to come.
At an event at our offices, we used IDA Group unique data analysing almost 400 cities, to showcase what measures we can expect in the future and where can expect it. We also heard representatives from the cities of London and Berlin who presented their respective city’s clean air measures, and plans for the future. If you would like to learn more about this analysis and what businesses can do to stay ahead of the curve, then please don’t hesitate to get in contact, we would be pleased to meet you.
Mark Watts is a Partner at IDA Group. He was a Member of the European Parliament for ten years. He was UK Labour Transport and Tourism Spokesperson and was a key architect of a number of EU laws. Mark now provides strategic counsel to some of the world’s most well-known companies and organisations. Mark studied at the LSE (BSc and MSc Econ) and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.