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London Mayor Calls for Changes to Congestion Charge to Reward Low-CO2 Emitters, Penalize High-CO2 Emitters

In 2007, London is almost doubling its congestion-charge area with the orange-shaded extension to the left. The original C-charge area is to the right. Click to enlarge.

London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, has asked Transport for London (TfL) to produce proposals by September to amend the Congestion Charging scheme to discourage the use of cars producing high levels of carbon emissions, and to encourage drivers to switch to cars with low levels of CO2 emissions.

The changes would involve discounts for cars with low CO2 emissions and substantially higher charges for cars with high levels of CO2 emissions.

Livingstone had earlier indicated that he was in favor of higher charges for vehicles with high levels of CO2 emissions. (Earlier post.)

In 2003, the City of London implemented a congestion-charge program for the city center as one of the strategies designed to address the problems of traffic congestion and emissions. The program, which levied a flat-rate, all-day area charge of £5 (now £8) per day for drivers entering the zone between 7:00AM - 6:30PM, Monday-Friday, has proven effective. By the end of 2005, total traffic had been reduced by 15-18%, congestion was down 30%, and emissions of PM10 and NOx were down 12%.

The Mayor said he was hopeful that any new discounts could come into effect from 2008, with subsequent higher new charges for cars producing high levels of CO2 emissions to be delivered within two years of the introduction of the new discounts.

The proposals are to reflect three rate tiers:

  • Low CO2 cars would pay less than the current £8 (US$15) per day.

  • Most cars would continue driving in the zone at the present rate of £8 per day.

  • Those vehicles with very high CO2 emissions (such as those that produce more than 226g/km of CO2 emissions, would be charged at a higher rate, perhaps around £25 (US$46).

The Congestion Charge has been a huge success in reducing traffic levels and supporting the public transport system through the revenue raised and improvement to bus reliability. I now want Transport for London to bring forward plans to build on the success of congestion charging to encourage drivers in London to purchase a low emission vehicle. My aim is to see the cutting of carbon emissions and the protection of our environment at the heart of the scheme.

There is a growing sense of concern amongst Londoners about climate change caused by CO2 emissions, which is the biggest single problem facing humanity, and tackling this threat requires decisive action. “Chelsea tractors” [SUVs], many of which are responsible for some of the highest CO2 emissions of any cars on our roads, have to be dealt with.

This is a charter for greening our car choices and it will once again put London at the cutting edge of both environmental and transport policy.

—Mayor Ken Livingstone



Well, that oughta get those peasants off the streets.

Its only a matter of time before they jack up the price again anyway.

After all they promised not to put up prices before this whole charade started. Ooops, turned out they were lying.

Who'd have thunk, lying politicans.

This is the primary reason why no where else in the UK will even touch road charging with a bargepole. Once the system is in place, its ripe for abuse by politicians.
No one wants a situation where they do not know how much their commute will cost or can be held at ransom by the local despot mayor.

Rafael Seidl

For reference -

226 g/km CO2 using gasoline is 9.4 l/100km (~25MPG US). For diesel cars, the corresponding numbers would be 8.5 l/100km (~27.6 MPG US).

In Europe, even fairly large cars usually manage to stay below these numbers in combined city/highway driving. However, if London decided to base its threshold of 226 g CO2/km on city fuel economy only, many more gasoline-powered vehicles - including virtually all minivans - would fall into the high-polluter category.

Many of the corresponding diesel variants would make the cut, however, perversely promoting a trade-off between NOx and PM (local pollution) against CO2 (global pollution). The PM level could perhaps be managed by charging the higher rate for all diesel vehicles without DPF that are registered after a certain date. NOx is a tougher problem, though, as there are no SCR-equipped passenger car models on the European market at this time.

London also needs to clarify if the GBP 25 level will apply to commercial (delivery) vehicles.

allen Z

Onto the minefield we go!

allen Z

Political/economic/environmental minefield.


I think these rules for the charge have a clear message: the majority of people (who elected this Mayor) in London do not like you if you drive an SUV in the city.

You are not welcome in London, if you drive an SUV. And they are happy to see you, if you arrive in a Prius.

And I am happy to see that, because I support any kind of legal restriction that is aimed directly against urban SUV driving. I hope more and more people will think this way.


This sort of scheme should be implemented everywhere. We need to get serious about co2 and this is a rather modest beginning. The concept should be extended to registration fees, license fees, title fees, sales taxes, road tolls.

Btw, the cars with the highest mpg , except hybrids, tend to be less expensive than the behomothic suvs. So, I don't see this as an anti peasant initiative. Echos, yarises, honda civics, FITs, etc. are a lot cheaper than the larger vehicles.

Furthermore, people are not forced to drive vehicles in central London.


Road congestion and local air quality are two good reasons to consider road-tolling and congestion-charging, as per the original London scheme. CO2 emissions are an important enviornmental concern, but it would appear best to tackle them on a larger-scale basis, especially when going it alone would result in perverse trade-offs against other important air quality goals.

Ken Livingstone, as a public figure, creeps me out more than I had originally expected him to. It is no surprise that he has taken a fairly commonplace concept (charging tolls for using scarce or high-value roadspace -- any commuter in New York can tell you about tolls) and turned it into a complex, changing and frustratingly dystopian system. If I lived in London, I would be fuming mad at the notion that these prices and zones were seemingly subject to continuous changes and increases, in an opaque manner unresponsive to public concerns.

Draw up a system, put it in place, promise to keep it stable for five or ten years at a time, and keep your promises... but no, that's too complicated a formula. Plenty in life is unpredictable -- so we use government as a sort of buffer to help create some degree of stability or predictability, at least in theory.

Bike Commuter Dude

Maybe they could make that $15 circular, by PAYING you to ride a bicycle. That is most likely what it would take to get a majority of the SUV crowd on a bicycle. I'm also enthused that they are taxing the people who seem to have the most resources. I mean, SUV's aren't cheap toys, and then the fuel... This could be another nail in the coffin for the biggest ecological mistake of the 1990s.

Sid Hoffman

Do SUV's even exist in London? This seems to be aimed more at the V8 & V12 Mercedes/Audi/BMW/Aston Martin owners than anything else.


Yes, there are plenty of Chelsea Tractors (SUVS) in London. I think anything which encourages people not to drive in the city is a good idea.

But they should give me my £50 back, it was an accident that I drove in a congestion zone.

Harvey D.

The world needs many more mayors like Mr. Livingstone. His policies could do wonders in LA and many other cities with high pollution problems.

He could go one step further and ban SUVs from the city center. They have no business there.

Sid Hoffman

They should go a step further and ban businesses from the congestion zones. That would reduce traffic dramatically if you just flattened all the buildings and put all the shops and companies out of business. Problem solved!


That comment reminds me of an old SimCity scenario I once played. In the original version of that program, they had a model of Zurich with very bad traffic congestion. The goal of the scenario was to reduce traffic congestion within five simulated years. What you were actually supposed to do was trim back the road network, build a light-rail, and selectively redevelop neighborhoods, etc. They didn't have a "congestion charging" option in that program. But, since the "win condition" algorithm only measured traffic density, you could simply bulldoze the entire city and wait out the five years, and in the end you'd win!

tom deplume

Does Her Majesty have to pay the fee?
I've long favored a regional parking space tax. Too many businesses create acres and acres of parking lots that are rarely ever more than half filled. Of course the tax would go to putting more buses on the road which wouldn't need to charge fares. Nothing keeps people off public transit like a farebox.


Forget london. If they tried this bs in LA the freeways would flow red with blood.

Joseph Willemssen

local despot mayor

Why did he get re-elected in 2004? They don't have a democracy in London?


London is effectively backs to the middle ages. When every local feudal imposed road tolls in his domain at will.


London is effectively backs to the middle ages. When every local feudal imposed road tolls in his domain at will."

No. This time the local "feudal" - elected by the people - imposed road tolls at will of the people. If the people do not like this, they can elect another mayor next time.

Harvey D.

It seems evident that OUR love affair with huge 4 x 4, heavy 3-Ton pick-up, SUVs and similar dinosaurs is still alive and strong.

Is is shocking to read how deeply we have been brain-washed to believe that those inefficient vehicles are an absolute necessity, even on city streets.

We have a severe attitude problem to solve before we buy more efficient vihicles.

GM, Ford, and others have done a good PR job. Lets hope that our children will be wiser.


There are plenty of water, sewage, power, gas, petroleum, transportational,etc. arteries supplying 6 million London megapolis from afar. Each of them running through some municipalities. Imagine they will impose transit levies – for their relatively small consumption too, and by perfectly democratic way. Think about power stations, toxic and radioactive waste disposal sites, landfills. What will happen when localities will have ability to tax them at will? Chaos.

This problem was solved at the end of middle ages: division of responsibilities. Local issues should be regulated by local authority, federal – by federal government. Sensible regulation of local air emission and congestion is local responsibility, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions – not.

Harvey D.

Higher levels of government cannot properly regulate GHG emission and other environmental issues because they have to be re-elected and pay-back many groups and lobbies for their past and future financial support.

Local govenrments do not have their hand as tightly fasten and still can react positively within their limited field of responsibility. The very few mayors who have the courage to try to clean their city should be commended, not blasted by those of us often limited to streams of worthless words.


The best thing they could do in the UK is to replace the current road tax with a system that taxes the fuel instead of the car. Some people drive a lot, some drive a little. Some are meticulous about maintenance, others let it go until something breaks. Some drive wastefully, others frugally. Taxing the fuel means those that use the most, pay the most in taxes. Only then when the wasteful ones see that how much they are paying in fuel taxes will they be encouraged to become more fuel efficient.


yeh umm i gotta do a project on this so can u add more stuff bout co2 levels and stuff please:)


Classic comments, likewise i am also working on a dissertation on emissions legislation. Seems like a bit of a touchy subject! I think there is no avioding the onslaught on emissions - everyone is ruffled about half the world drying up and the other half drowning. End of the day tho lets not be selfish and ruin the world for everyone,and whats a few bob in the ol' tax mans pocket after all you would only squander it...?!
Take from the rich, give to the poor, its only fair


kens useless, who cares if you drive an SUV, its mainly class envy from the left who should have worked harder at school, showered more and not smoked so much cannabis, i hope ken loses he next election or preferably has a heart attack.

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