Member states strike deal on 'green' toll for lorries
15.10.10 @ 17:32
BRUSSELS - European transport ministers have reached an agreement on a new set of rules that will enable member states to charge heavy lorries an additional "green" tariff according to the air and noise pollution they create.
Discussions on the so-called "polluter pays" system have been rumbling on for the past two years, with road haulage groups strongly opposed to the measure.
"These new rules send the right signals to operators," said EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas in a statement on Friday (15 October).
"The aim is to incentivise a shift in behaviour so companies invest in more efficient logistics, less polluting vehicles and more sustainable transport at large."
In its current form, the EU's 1999 "Eurovignette" directive enables national governments to charge heavy lorries on roughly half of Europe's 30,000 km of motorways.
Tolls are either time- or distance-based, and are designed to offset infrastructure costs.
If the European Parliament gives its approval to Friday's deal, governments will then be able to charge the additional "green" tariff targeting pollution, if they wish.
Agreement on the compromise text proposed by the Belgian EU presidency is a significant diplomatic coup for the country's caretaker government.
The deal will also allow member states to vary the tolls according to congestion levels, charging more at peak periods provided that lower tariffs are applied during off-peak periods.
Nina Renshaw, deputy director of Transport & Environment, an environmental group that campaigns for sustainable transport, welcomed the deal.
She urged MEPs to throw out an exemption for less polluting trucks, however.
"Transport ministers also took the bizarre decision to exempt current generation [EURO V] lorries from air pollution charges; that's rather like exempting smokers of low tar cigarettes from smoking bans," she said.
"The European Parliament should throw out this loophole when it reviews the legislation at its second reading."