Speaking exclusively to Fleet News, Mr Cameron said Labour’s attempts to persuade fleets to buy low-carbon-emitting vehicles – most notably the ill-fated Powershift grant – were convoluted, and called for simplicity.
‘There’s a real frustration with green schemes,’ he said. ‘The government introduces them, withdraws them and complicates them. We need some straightforward and simple schemes for business and individuals. That’s what happens in other European countries and I think that’s what we need here.’
The public would not be convinced that green cars are the way forward unless they were affordable and compared favourably with ‘traditional’, less environmentally-friendly vehicles, Mr Cameron added.
‘The environmental agenda won’t take off if the cars are woefully inferior or if the prices are too high,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to make this something people want to do. If people can say ‘I can cut my own energy bill and at the same time do something good for the rest of the country’, I think they will take that step.’
For this to happen, Mr Cameron said, the government had to set out a strategy.
‘We should be quite aggressive in setting long-range targets in reducing the emissions from vehicles,’ he said.
The government should also take the lead as a procurer and operator and work on steps to take to encourage green behaviour.
‘Those steps are not always the same for each case,’ Mr Cameron warned. ‘For example, with biomass it may be a change in regulation, whereas with biofuels it might be a change in taxation. Business wants a framework in which to operate.’
The government’s Powershift grant shut down in 2005 because it broke European funding rules. Fleets were expecting a replacement Low Carbon Car Fund to be announced last year, providing grants of between £300 and £1,000 for cars emitting less than 115g/km of CO2, but the scheme’s funding was instead allocated by the government to an education campaign.
Mr Cameron’s criticism comes as the Department for Transport is defending the lack of company car information in a new climate change campaign.
The Act on CO2 campaign, launched at the weekend, makes no mention of fleet vehicles.
A DfT spokesman said: ‘We have started by giving tips to the general motoring public but that doesn’t mean we won’t expand it to include company cars later on.
‘It’s not something we have intentionally ignored – this is only the first step in the campaign.’