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Porsche defies 'gas guzzler tax'

2008-02-20 08:45

London - Luxury carmaker Porsche said on Tuesday it planned to legally challenge London mayor Ken Livingstone's decision to help fight global warming by taxing gas guzzling cars driving in the city centre.

Porsche said on Tuesday the 25 pound ($48.74) daily charge was unfair, would not cut emissions of carbon dioxide and would deter businesses from moving to the city.

"A massive congestion charge increase is quite simply unjust," said Andy Goss, managing director of Porsche Cars GB.

"Thousands of car owners driving a huge range of cars will be hit by a disproportionate tax which is clear will have a very limited effect on CO2 emissions," he added. Livingstone rejected the move as a public relations stunt and called it an attack on Londoners.

"No one is allowed to throw their rubbish in the street and Porsche should not be allowed to impose gas guzzling polluting cars on Londoners who do not want them," he told reporters.

Announcing the plan last week Livingstone admitted that it would have little immediate effect on carbon emissions but said it would discourage people from driving polluting cars in the city centre and encourage manufacturers to make cleaner engines.

He said the new scheme would raise 30 million to 50 million pounds a year and cover most of the cost of a major cycling initiative that will include a Paris-style roadside bicycle hire scheme in the city centre.

Livingstone, who has made the environment a central plank of his tenure, is facing a tough re-election battle in May. If he loses, his emissions policy is likely to go with him.

The 25 pound daily tax on vehicles emitting 225 grams or more of carbon dioxide per km would apply in the same way as the normal 8 pound ($16) daily charge does to all but the cleanest cars.

"I have every sympathy with a Scottish hill farmer who needs his 4x4 to get around. But there is absolutely no justification for cars producing high amounts of pollution being driven in central London," Livingstone said when he announced the scheme.

Environmentalists lashed out at the Porsche move and called for even tougher measures against the most polluting cars in next month's budget.

"Along with the rest of the German car industry they are desperately resisting the strong measures needed to tackle the car industry's contribution to climate change," said Friends of the Earth head Tony Juniper.

Porsche said it would write to Livingstone this week asking him to reconsider the plan.

If he failed to respond in 14 days or refused to reconsider the plan that will come into force in October, the carmaker would make a submission to the courts for a judicial review.

"The proposed increase will be bad for London as a whole and will send out the signal that it is not serious about establishing itself as the best place in the world to do business," Goss said.

The court could force a delay, alteration or even a rejection of the plan.

A judicial challenge by Greenpeace last year forced the government to mount a major public consultation on its proposals for a new fleet of nuclear power stations.

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