Daniel Murray’s ESG Newsletter: Rubber meets road on phasing out cars

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The strategy will include enabling legislation for local authorities to introduce congestion charges, clean air zones, or road use charges

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When the Green Party first floated the idea of introducing measures to reduce private car use, it caused ructions within government.

Backbench TDs in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael lined up to say that they would not accept congestion charges or other measures to deter private car use in their local areas, as public transport simply wasn’t sufficient.

A year later, Eamon Ryan’s plan has finally arrived and been approved by government, in an effort to reduce car use in urban centres to address congestion, pollution and to help reach the country’s transport climate targets.

As I reported last night, the ‘demand management strategy’ will seek to give local authorities a choice of 35 actions for reducing private car use, with the priority being for areas that are well serviced by public transport already. Those will include things like higher parking fees, the removal of on-street parking spaces, and new charges for polluting vehicles to enter city centres.

The strategy will include enabling legislation for local authorities to introduce congestion charges, clean air zones, or road use charges, if they deem them necessary.

There is also be a recommendation to develop a taxation approach for transport based on a ‘user and polluter pays’ principle. This will look to reform the taxation system from transport away from excise on petrol and diesel, and towards road user charges, or mileage charges, or higher motor tax.

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The strategy also proposes local authorities engage with businesses, education and sports sectors to embed demand management principles and practices in their own organisations, so people’s travel habits for various activities can be as sustainable as possible.

Ryan will be hoping some of the controversy that plagued the last year will be eased by the nature of this document, which is high-level and makes no concrete policy decisions about what measures are to be introduced where.

Instead, that will be left to local authorities, who will have the discretion to implement measures at their own leisure, and based on the availability of transport alternatives in their local areas.

While those local authorities will not be obliged to implement any of these measures, they will have to develop their own local climate action plans, where transport actions are likely to include some of the actions being proposed today.

The hope is that overtime, local urban centres will have a mix of improved public transport services and bespoke deterrent measures to encourage people out of their cars. But for now, government politicians knocking on doors at the local and European elections will not have to defend the measures just yet, meaning the political sting of such proposals has been neutralised, for now.

Thanks for reading,


Around the world

Booming profits temper oil executives talk about green energy

The mood at a Big Oil conference in Houston, Texas was emboldened by the high demand driving record profits, the Financial Times has reported.

The annual CERAWeek conference came just months after the Cop28 pledge to triple the use of renewables by 2030 and transition away from fossil fuels.

Alan Armstrong, chief executive of Williams, the biggest US gas pipeline company, told the FT that “the environment right now is very positive for the oil and gas industry.“

“Roll the clock back four or five years ago, they were like: ‘Oh, it’s all going to be renewables and batteries’ — and now they’re saying: ‘Wow, wow, this is going to be way too expensive.’”

As the report notes, that bullish attitude comes against the backdrop of UN’s World Meteorological Organization this week sounded a “red alert” as it affirmed 2023 as having been the hottest year on record.