Tony Blair introduced the ‘dash for diesel’ in the late 1990s to meet climate change targets. Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol wealthy countries had to slash emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, by 8 per cent over 15 years.
Like other leaders, Blair was swayed by the motor industry’s argument that switching from petrol to diesel would lead to huge drops in greenhouse gas emissions.It’s true that diesels emit less CO2 – mostly they are more efficient and go further on one litre of fuel. However, in the 1990s the industry argued the average diesel emitted 13 to 17 per cent less CO2, a figure that turned out to be hugely optimistic. How was the UK persuaded to switch to dirty diesel?
The 2001 Budget overhauled vehicle excise duty and introduced a new banding system, still in place today. The more CO2 cars emitted, the more owners had to pay. The system favoured diesel cars which, according to the manufacturer’s test results, tended to have lower CO2 emissions. Labour also brought in tax breaks for diesel company cars to encourage businesses to switch."