After Parisians voted in a referendum to triple parking charges for heavier cars to over €18 per hour in the city centre of the French capital, Labour’s spokesperson on climate has said that “car bloat” needs to be tackled in Irish cities.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) last year said that if SUVs were a country, they would rank as the sixth most polluting in the world. The IEA said that, on average, SUVs consume around 20% more oil than an average medium-size non-SUV car and that the increase in larger cars has cancelled out the benefits of more fuel-efficient and electric cars.
The IEA also highlighted that electric SUVs are an issue because of the need for larger batteries.
The measure in Paris focuses on the weight of cars and applies to conventional cars which are at least 1.6 tonnes, and also to electric cars which are over 2 tonnes.
The city centre parking fee for a lighter car is €6 per hour and the so-called SUV fee will be €18 per hour. In the outer areas of the city’s area, lighter cars are charged €4 per hour, while it is planned that SUVs will be charged €12 per hour.
Senator Rebecca Moynihan, Labour’s climate spokesperson, said: “With SUVs gaining popularity, their disproportionate contribution to pollution demands immediate attention. Government urgently need to address the issue of car bloat in Irish cities. Parisians’ recently voted to triple parking costs for SUVs, Government should outline what takes it can take to follow suit.”
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The referendum in Paris to increase charges for larger cars included wide-scale exemptions including people living or working in Paris, people with disabilities, taxi drivers, tradespeople, and health workers. The full details have yet to be finalised between the Mayor of Paris and councillors.
The turnout was just 5.7%, but Paris progressed with a ban on electric scooter rentals with around a 7% turnout.
Senator Moynihan said: “The surge in SUV ownership exacerbates our environmental concerns. We know from the Climate Change Advisory Council that ambitions have not been matched by actions. As it stands, we have already reached 50% of our 2030 emissions ceiling. This indicates a critical need for robust measures to curb car bloat.”
“We in Labour have been advocating for an SUV tax akin to France’s model, factoring in weight and size. Such a levy, integrated into Vehicle Registration Tax and annual motor tax systems, would deter oversized vehicle ownership and could be used to mitigate their adverse impacts. We know that Eamon Ryan is committed to making our urban streets safer but we also need to put a light under the rest of government to support him in this,” she said.
Senator Moynihan added: “On the day that the European Commission is producing a roadmap on carbon neutrality, We should push the EU level to bring in size standards for private cars because if this trend continues we will supersize our way out of action on transport.”
Irish Doctors for the Environment, a charity made up of healthcare professionals who voice concerns about the health impact of environmental issues, also called for action in light of the vote in Paris.
A spokesperson for the group said: “SUVs are more harmful on almost every level than smaller cars. SUVs contribute a disproportionate share to the CO2 and NOx emissions from private transport mainly as a result of their greater mass.”
The group said that the rise of sales of SUVs is having a severe negative effect on climate change and local air quality, and consequently human health.
Their spokesperson added: “SUVs take up more space than normal-sized cars. It is mainly pedestrians and cyclists that suffer as a consequence of less space. Worryingly, research on SUVs and collisions suggests a marked increased risk of mortality for pedestrians and cyclists. The most vulnerable among us seem to bear the greatest burden. Counteracting the rise in SUVs size and numbers could have enormous positive impacts on public health and carbon emissions.”
On electric SUVs, the IEA warned: “SUVs require larger batteries to power them, so a growing electric SUV market would impose additional pressure on battery supply chains and further increase demand for the critical minerals needed to make the batteries.”
They added: “Addressing those risks ahead of time is possible through a number of actions: downsizing of the average car size; increasing battery swapping; and investing in innovative battery technologies. Those strategies would keep in check the investment requirements for developing the cobalt, copper, lithium and nickel resources needed to satisfy the increasing uptake of EVs.”