Car-maker cheats should be made to pay for our buses, trams and bike lanes

I was very happy to get an emergency motion passed at Green Party conference supporting my call for car makers who have cheated their emissions tests to be made to pay for the better ways of getting around we need as alternatives to cars, and other measures too, including taking legal action to recover lost tax revenue.

In my speech to conference, I said:

“Air pollution causes the early death of nearly 10,000 Londoners every year. And the absolute scandal of Volkswagen cheating its emissions tests shows that we cannot rely on manufacturers’ pledges on cleaner vehicles to solve this problem. To put it mildly, we cannot rely on them at all.

“I am demanding prosecutions and an independent inquiry right now. And for car makers who have lied to us and not cleaned up their cars? I want them to be made to pay for the buses, walking and bike infrastructure, trams and trains we need to reduce traffic and get people off the car dependence that leads them to buy cars in the first place.

“That would be real justice for this criminal fraud.”

The motion in full:

Conference is outraged by the revelations about the secret software installed in diesel cars by Volkswagen, intended to deceive regulators and give lower results during air pollution emissions tests than when the cars are driven in the real world.

The Transport and Environment organisation in Brussels has described this scandal as ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as similar disparities exist for other manufacturers. For new diesel cars real emissions of nitrogen dioxide are now typically five times higher than during tests.

The potential effects on public health of this deception are shocking. In the UK, as many as 60,000 early deaths, and in London nearly 10,000, each year are caused by air pollution.

Conference applauds Client Earth for taking legal action that has meant the Government has had to make new air pollution plans. The long-term work of Green Assembly Members in London has also led to plans for a new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) for the city, which is due to start in 2020.

However, the new revelations mean the effectiveness of these plans are in doubt, as vehicles that claim to meet the standards clearly do not. Many of the assumptions behind new policies have been made a mockery of by cheating car makers.

Conference calls on our Leader and candidate for London Mayor to call for:

a) Criminal prosecutions of those involved in a fraud which has undoubtedly cost lives.

b) A genuinely independent inquiry, ideally a Royal Commission, to be set up immediately, to test all vehicles, investigate and report within two months on the scale and extent of the deception and the difference in emissions from those reported across all vehicles sold in recent years.

c) An independent testing process to be set up for all ongoing vehicle testing.

d) The government and mayor of London to immediately reassess plans for the ULEZ and the new national Air Quality Plan, adding new measures to reduce traffic and pollution to within legal limits as soon as possible, as required by law.

e) The government and mayor of London to seek maximum compensation from carmakers to cover the cost of making new plans, the above new measures, lost tax revenue, and the cost to public health.