Keith Mortimer looks at how road pricing is becoming a pawn in the propaganda game
“Hilarious but depressing” reports show that the challenges of climate change and toxic emissions mean very little to UK news media following a different agenda. “EU declares WAR on drivers: Now Brussels meddlers want congestion charge in EVERY town” was the startling headline in the Daily Express on 15 February. The Mail, Telegraph and Sun ran related stories, which were picked up by a multitude of websites and local newspapers, causing a public storm of anti-RUC sentiment. Useful as this was to campaigners seeking Britain’s exit from the EU, sadly there was no substance to the reports. The purpose of this note is to reflect the real world. Please see at the end of this article for links to some of the many references. No doubt you can find more! However, the press stories which ignited this media storm are totally untrue. The whole confection is derived from a suggestion in one paragraph of a report by the EU Committee for the Regions published back in in 2012. Hilarious! But depressing that road charging was used in a scaremongering attempt to manipulate public opinion on EU membership. The pros and cons of being in the EU are better debated without such contrivances. The public deserves to be given facts rather than fabrications.
It is as difficult to counter this fog of half-truths and public disinformation as it is to dispel the clouds of toxic gas that blight many of the world’s cities. What can we usefully add?
The EU has no powers to impose any congestion charge on any city, region or country.
The “crippling new plans being suggested by EU bureaucrats” are indeed ‘buried in a committee report’ compiled and published in 2012 by the EU Committee for the Regions. The actual report suggested that it was important “to ensure that local or regional taxes or charges are consistent with wider objectives …… specific examples of local charging schemes that both generate local revenues and serve wider public policy objectives include: congestion charging for private car use in urban centres.” That’s it.
The newspaper stories confused the need for climate change action with the proposed introduction of clean air zones in cities, using loaded language but without once referring to recent, factual reports highlighting the need to meet urgent challenges.
In a month when both European and WHO authorities have published sombre reports of the deaths and disease resulting from particulate and nitrogen dioxide pollution in major cities, it would be surprising if there was not serious concern across Europe to improve air quality. The UK government has recently proposed Clean Air Zones in five badly affected cities. These measures will target commercial diesel vehicles, not passenger cars.
Less than two months after the British Government agreed at the Paris COP21 Summit to work towards climate change targets requiring highly stringent limits on CO2 emissions, it would be interesting to know what specific measures are felt to be appropriate.
Maybe it’s hilarious that newspapers can unearth four-year-old documents and scour them at such length for phoney ammunition. But it’s equally depressing that public opinion could be influenced by people who have such scant regard for the real world.
The real tragedy may be that this whole smokescreen renders it very hard to have a meaningful public debate about the need to mitigate the effects of toxic and greenhouse gas emissions. Issues of Europe and the environment are too important to be treated this way.
RUC practitioners, from the public and private sector, are well equipped with facts to counter misinformation. If they can perform one useful service at this time, it must be to encourage rational decision making based on known evidence. It could be more useful if ‘news’ purveyors took their responsibilities more seriously. When they don’t, who else will provide an effective response?
Press extracts and links
EU declares WAR on drivers: Now Brussels meddlers want congestion charge in EVERY town
Daily Express, 15 February 2016
Councils are being told to introduce congestion charging and bin taxes to enable Europe to achieve its target on climate change.
The recommendations have been made by the European Commission in a guide for local and regional authorities on how to implement its Europe 2020 strategy.
The strategy, the European Union’s 10-year jobs and growth initiative, is committed to reducing greenhouse emissions by at least 20 per cent, compared to 1990 levels, by 2020.
Last night critics suggested the plan is already being put into effect, with the announcement in December, introduced without fanfare shortly before Christmas, that five English cities are to have clean air zones by 2020.
Motorists could be charged for driving through ALL towns and cities under new plans being drawn up by EU
Mail on Sunday, 14 February 2015
Drivers could be charged for driving through all towns and cities in the UK under crippling new plans being suggested by EU bureaucrats.
And remarkably, households face being hit with a tax on recycling under the red tape proposals.
The recommendations for new taxes and charges are buried in a committee report on how the EU can meet its target of cutting emissions by a fifth by 2020.
Barmy EU bureaucrats want congestion charging in ALL towns
BRUSSELS bureaucrats are telling councils to introduce congestion charging in all towns and introduce a ‘bin tax’ to help Europe achieve its climate change target. The recommendations have been presented as a guide but Eurosceptic MPs say it is another example of the EU meddling in British affairs.
Keith Mortimer is the director of Wyevale Consulting, and a chair of the upcoming RUC Conference in Brussels March 2-3, 2016. You can contact him at email@example.com