Food industry criticises ‘polluter pays’ road transport charges

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

The food industry has warned that new pollution charges for heavy goods vehicles in the EU have the potential to distort competition and increase retail food prices.

The Council of the European Union yesterday adopted its first-reading position on the draft Eurovignette directive. Based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, the directive proposes levying tolls that make lorries pay for the air and noise pollution they cause on the roads.

The Council decision formalises the political agreement reached by transport ministers in October and means that the text now moves on to the European Parliament for a second reading.

Food industry reaction

As a major user of road transport, the food industry is not happy with the proposals.

Andrew Kuyk, sustainability director at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) in the UK told “We are concerned that new mandatory EU charges have the potential to distort competition, particularly given the very different conditions across Europe.

“They will also add to existing regulatory burdens and costs, which will inevitably be reflected in prices paid by consumers.”

The International Road Transport Union (IRU), which represents truckers, argues that charges will not achieve their stated aim – pollution reduction.

“Polluter pays, problem stays!”

The Union told this publication: “To ensure economic growth and remain competitive, it should be recognised, once and for all, that the polluter-pays principle is economically outdated and environmentally misguided, as it does not address the problem…Polluter pays, problem stays!”

The first-reading position voted on this week differs from the initial Commission proposal from July 2008 in two respects.

The original advocated compulsory earmarking of revenue from road charging and the introduction of a specific congestion charge.

In the amended Council text it states that member states should, but are not obliged to, earmark revenue for projects in the transport sector. And it gives a window allowing adjustment of the infrastructure charge, related to road construction and up-keep, to take account of road congestion.

The Eurovignette directive will amend the 1999 directive on road use charges for heavy goods vehicles.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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