The chief scientist under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown has admitted successive governments were wrong to encourage people to buy diesel vehicles.
Sir David King, the chief scientific adviser from 2000 to 2007 and special representative for climate change until last week, said that the government had overestimated the impact of European regulations when it decided to encourage people to buy diesel vehicles from 2001 onwards.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that meeting CO2 targets, which were part of the climate change agenda, was the priority at the time. “What was on our minds very heavily was how do we reduce carbon dioxide emissions given the challenge of climate change. Diesel-driven vehicles can do more miles per gallon and it seemed an obvious way forward to go down the diesel route.”
Asked about the 1999 government report recommending they steer clear of incentivising diesel purchases, he said ministers at the time thought that tighter regulations from Brussels would address the problem.
“What we were anticipating was that the Euro standards being met would mean that diesel manufacturers would have to reduce their NOx emissions . . . It turns out we were wrong.”