Prescott boost for green cars

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The Independent Online
DEPUTY Prime Minister John Prescott is to stage an unprecedented green motor show this spring for ministers and mayors from all over Europe. Major car manufacturers will unveil new, less polluting models as part of his drive to beat global warming.

Mr Prescott is also drawing up plans for Britain to cut its emissions of the gases that cause the climatic change far faster than laid down in the Kyoto treaty last December. And tomorrow he will tell the European Parliament that the reductions he brokered there are not nearly enough to avert disaster.

The motor show, which will be held in Chester on April 25, during the first ever joint meeting of all the EU's environment and transport ministers, will both provide a first glimpse of the cars of the future. No sooner was the ink dry on the Kyoto treaty than motor manufacturers - who had opposed the agreement - began to race each other to get cleaner cars into the showrooms.

Last month, General Motors, Ford and Vauxhall announced plans to produce cars which will do many more miles to the gallon, and thus produce far less pollution. All major car makers are expected to attend the show, and Mr Prescott is inviting the mayors of Europe's big cities to see what is on offer and join ministers in a conference on how to change "the role of the car in the city".

He believes that local and national government need to take "a twin-track approach" both to persuade people to use their cars less and to make the vehicles cleaner. This would also cut down on the pollution that causes smog and aggravates asthma which now affects one in every seven British children. Meanwhile, his officials are working with industry and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution to draw up a "white paper" with plans for drastic reductions in Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that cause global warming.

He plans to do more than twice as well as was agreed in Kyoto, with the equivalent of a 20 per cent cut in carbon dioxide. He believes that the Kyoto agreement is "nowhere near sufficient to tackle the problem of climate change in the longer term".

n Ministers are hastily back pedalling on plans to bring in sweeping new powers which would allow, without planning permission, the concreting of even the most protected areas of the countryside - including National Parks and wildlife sites - in the face of protests from local government, environmentalists and the Conservative Party.

Geoffrey Lean, page 6