A black box in every car will ensure the polluter pays

polluter pays

A new £10 emissions levy on pre-2005 cars in London is only months from launch, but such is the danger to health posed by air pollution that a far more stringent tax is already in development.

Under a ‘polluter pays’ approach, local authorities will require that internal combustion engine vehicles be fitted with a black box to track their movements and measure the amount of dangerous nitrous oxides they produce in real time.

Those who drive aggressively and thereby create more pollution, or who pass near sensitive areas such as schools, will be charged a high amount. By contrast, those who avoid pollution hot spots and drive calmly will be rewarded with a lower rate.

The technology has been developed by Tantalum in collaboration with Capita – the operator of the London congestion charge. A trial involving 1,000 cars will start within the year.

The introduction of technology that signals an end to polluting vehicles cannot come soon enough. The widespread use of diesel vehicles is being described as a health emergency. A coalition of doctors this week wrote to the prime minister to warn that exhaust fumes can stunt growth and cause irreversible lung damage to children. A report by the Royal College of Physicians found that air pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths in Britain every year.

Rajiive Mitra, a doctor from Lambeth in London, told The Times this week: “I’d like to see local and national authorities phase out diesel cars and promote electric cars, but also help people to get out of cars and cycle and walk more.”

There is an apparent inconsistency when it comes to deciding whether to tax or outlaw behaviours that harm others. Cigarettes kill almost 80,000 a year here in Britain, but for the most part those affected are the smokers themselves. As a consequence, the practice has been banned in public indoor spaces – it would seem odd if smokers were allowed to light up in pubs if they paid a small levy. Strange then, that air pollution kills 40,000 people every year in Britain and has a crippling effect on the health of the young and old and yet we seem so reluctant to introduce meaningful restrictions. After all,  the air filters fitted to cars ensure that drivers are protected from the exhaust gases they leave in their wake.

The ‘polluter pays’ approach overlooks the fact that those polluted continue to pay for the dirty air with their health.

Britain’s most ethical insurance company

The ETA has been voted the most ethical insurance company in Britain for the second year running by the Good Shopping Guide.

Beating household-name insurance companies such as John Lewis and the Co-op, the ETA earned an ethical company index score of 89.

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Twenty seven years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance, travel insurance and breakdown cover while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.


  1. Howard Jones


    This is a matter which should be determined and controlled by HM government and not by leaving it to Local Authorities to develop their own piecemeal approach which is a recipe for chaos, HM Government take the taxes but don’t want the flack !!!

  2. John Heathcote


    Can we please be clear about nitrogen oxides. Petrol cars emit nitrous oxide which is a greenhouse gas and is persistent in the atmosphere. Diesel cars emit nitric oxide, which oxidises spontaneously to nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is an irritant and exacerbates pre-existing medical conditions. It is impersistent in the atmosphere. Petrol cars emit more carbon dioxide per mile than diesel cars. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and persists in the atmosphere. Electric cars rely on being charged by electricity generated using fossil fuel and producing carbon dioxide. The answer to urban air pollution is less motorised traffic altogether, not just replacing diesel cars. Get on your bike, or walk!

    • Paul


      “Petrol cars emit nitrous oxide” , not really. When exposed to high temperatures (Any ICE will do) nitrogen and oxygen combine to form NO (Nitric oxide AKA Nitrogen Monoxide) . In the atmosphere this oxidises to nitrogen dioxide which can then combine with organic compounds to form all sorts of nasties.
      Quiet agree with your solution though.

  3. Hugh Counsell


    Paying a tax of £10 per day will not help children who are becoming seriously ill because of the noxious pollution from diesel engines. All diesels should be banned from our towns and cities.

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