Owners of gas-guzzling cars to be hit by five-fold tax increase

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The Independent Online

Motorists who drive fuel-hungry BMWs, people carriers and Range Rovers face a five-fold increase in road tax under radical plans to combat Britain's spiralling greenhouse gas emissions.

Motorists who drive fuel-hungry BMWs, people carriers and Range Rovers face a five-fold increase in road tax under radical plans to combat Britain's spiralling greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposals are being studied by transport and environment ministers after it emerged that car buyers are ignoring warnings about the dangers of climate change by increasingly choosing luxury cars, larger MPVs and 4x4s with large, powerful engines.

The Government's influential energy conservation agency, the Energy Saving Trust (EST), has told ministers the only way to force motorists to buy "green" cars is to introduce a new top rate of road tax as high as £900 a year.

The new tax - more than five times the current rate of £165 a year for petrol engines - would have a major impact, by catching many popular larger family cars such as the Vauxhall Sharan or Ford Galaxy people carriers.

But at the same time, the agency has said, ministers should also make the most energy-efficient cars tax free or even give motorists a £150 annual tax rebate as a reward for buying them.

The proposals, which will provoke car industry protests, come as climate change campaigners begin targeting car manufacturersin an attempt to pressure ministers to cut Britain's greenhouse gas emissions. Two weeks ago, Greenpeace activists led by Stephen Tindale, the organisation's director and a former ministerial special adviser, closed down Range Rover's assembly line in Solihull by chaining themselves to unfinished cars.

Greenpeace has accused the firm of deliberately marketing off-road vehicles such as the Range Rover Sport as urban cars, even though they consume 12 miles per gallon in cities and are rarely used in the countryside.

The Energy Savings Trust believes higher road tax would force car makers to redesign these models, by making them more fuel efficient and cheaper to own.

Ministers are under intense pressure to rescue Tony Blair's ailing plans to cut the UK's emissions of climate gases by 20 per cent by 2010.

The proposal will be resisted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the main industry body.

Nigel Wonnacott, the SMMT's spokesman, said: "We would oppose a punitive tax on higher-emitting vehicles. If you buy a car which runs at 20mpg, you're already much more heavily penalised by vehicle excise duty and fuel costs."

UNDER THREAT

Five cars facing £900 a year in road tax

VW Sharan 2.0S

Cost: £17,495

MPG: 29.1

CO2 emissions: 230gm per km

Current Vehicle Excise Duty: £165

Range Rover Sport 4.4 V8

Cost: £45,000

MPG: 18.9

CO2 emissions: 352gm per km

Current VED: £165

Ford Galaxy 2.3LX

Cost: £15,553

MPG: 28

CO2 emissions: 242gm per km

Current VED: £165

Volvo V70 2.4SE

Cost: £26,478

MPG: 30.7

CO2 emissions: 220gm per km

Current VED: £165

Mercedes E240 Classic

Cost: £28,930

MPG: 27.4

CO2 emissions: 247gm per km

Current VED: £165

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