The EU should ban the sale of cars that travel less than 35 miles per gallon, the ex-chairman of Shell has said.
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart’s comments were met with surprise and, later, with condemnation from carmakers and dealers.
The UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) pointed out that drivers of the most polluting cars already pay extra through road tax and petrol duty.
“His proposals are frankly bizarre,” said an SMMT spokesman.
“The motor industry has made significant progress in cutting emissions, which directly leads to improved mpg.”
The SMMT points out that a million tonnes of CO2 have been saved through new vehicle technology each year for the past two years.
It also said that consumer choice would be severely compromised if Sir Mark’s proposals were adopted.
“His proposals would wipe out a significant chunk of the new car market and large cars are needed by many companies and families – the consumer needs choice as well as incentives for cleaner cars,” said the spokesman.
However, Sir Mark, who also acted as co-chair of the G8 Renewable Energy Taskforce, remained convinced that his comments, which were made to the BBC, were well thought through.
He said that it was unethical to allow rich people to avoid taking responsibility for tackling climate change simply by making them pay more.
“It is a social thing. We don’t say the wealthy can avoid doing what is needed by society. Nobody needs a car that does 15mpg,” he said.
“You would be allowed to drive an Aston Martin – but only if it did 50-60mpg.”
His comments, while being met with resistance from carmakers, should strike a chord with many motorists.
According to the BBC, opinion polls consistently show that people are prepared to change their ways to tackle climate change – but only if their neighbours are forced to do the same.
David Brennan, managing director of LeasePlan, said while Sir Mark’s comments could prove attractive, his suggestions need some fine tuning.
He said: “The danger is using too much stick and too little carrot.
“Financial penalties and efficiency limits on the one hand need to be complemented with driver education on the other.”