Restricting Polluting Vehicles
There is a growing trend to prevent vehicles polluting the city air in a number of cities around the world. The controls are becoming stricter as more people are affected by air pollution and there is a greater awareness of the problem of air borne pollutants in general. The pollutants of tiny particulates from diesel vehicles and nitrogen oxides from petrol and diesel vehicles are beginning to be addressed through payment and restrictions in a number of cities.
London is one city where pricing is being used to discourage older and the worst polluting vehicles entering the centre of the city. Here is known as the T-charge where the T refers to toxic emissions from vehicles. New regulations came into force on the 23rd October in order to improve the city’s air quality: the changes affect diesel and petrol vehicles that were registered before 2006 that do not conform to the European standards. In particular the Euro 4/IV European directive is designed to regulate vehicle emissions. Motorised tricycles or quadricycles need to meet the Euro 3 standard (for high-level details of the standards see below).
The European or Euro emission standards define the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of new vehicles in Europe (European Union and the European Economic Area). London is implementing the charge through its congestion charge zone, which is operational between Monday and Friday over the day from 07:00 to 18:00. This is a precursor to a stricter Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London to be introduced from 2020, although it could be brought forward to 2019. The move is an attempt to improve air quality in London. Further details are on the Yahoo web site article.
The European or Euro standards are designed to improve air quality: they become ever more strict and Euro 1 was first introduced in 1992 and the Euro 6 (or current standard) is progressively introduced from September 2014. The regulations apply to light duty vehicles. The aim of Euro emissions standards is to reduce the levels of harmful exhaust emissions and in particular nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and particulate matter (PM). There are further details of the standards on the RAC website.
London and other cities are leading the way to try to improve the air quality. London is using a road pricing mechanism in order to dissuade people from causing the air pollution from fossil fuel burning vehicles.
There has been the declaration of independence by the Catalan republic, an area of north east Spain. The region has become an autonomous region and has a distinct history dating back almost 1,000 years. It has a population of 7.5 million people and has its own Catalan language, culture and is governed from its own parliament. The region has had its own identity including having a Catalan flag from the 1970s for example. On 1 October a referendum declared independence but this was then determined to be illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. Around 90% of the voters had backed the independence. These elections had been disrupted by Spanish, as opposed to local Catalan, police who had in some cases used violence against anyone using their vote.
On 27 October Catalans declared independence from Spain in order to have the autonomy that they wanted. Spain and the Government in Madrid quickly responded by imposing direct control. It invoked the Article 155 of the constitution giving it right to dissolve the regional parliament. This was undertaken around an hour after the Catalans declared independence. There are now many unanswered questions as to the future of Catalonia namely around its political destiny. The Spanish deputy prime minister has been brought in to administer the region for now until elections in December. Regional elections have been brought forward and will be held on 21 December.
Other countries have not formally recognised the Catalan republic and the European Union fails to acknowledge it too. There could be implications for the wider Spanish economy as the Catalan region accounts for around 25% of the country’s exports. The region also brings in around 20% of foreign investment to Spain yet only has around 16% of the population. Further summary information can be read about on the BBC web site.
Following on from the Spanish dissolution of the Catalan parliament the deposed president, Carles Puigdemont, left the region for Brussels. The president could face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds from the Spanish authorities following the declaration of independence. The fact is that the leader of Catalonia has departed and left the people in a state of uncertainty. The main reason appears to be to avoid any charges brought against him by the Spanish Government. See this Guardian news article.
The Catalonia situation is one of irony as many countries will not recognise the republic and will only work with Spain on any matters relating to the region. The European Union (EU) is one organisation that will not recognise an independent Catalan region. It is the EU that has in many ways given regions such as Catalonia more autonomy from their parent nation states. It is this process that has encouraged many independence movements across the continent and, yet, the institution that enabled it is now not willing to support any election that gives full independence. There could be other movements that do not have any further powers despite several years of becoming more autonomous and independent within the union of states. There have been other countries that have formed from similar movements: for example the Estonian Declaration on the Sovereignty of the Estonian SSR (Deklaratsioon Eesti NSV suveräänsusest), was issued on November 16, 1988. This ultimately meant independence of Estonia from the USSR (Russia). See Wikipedia.
The situation in Catalonia is uncertain and changing rapidly. The elections on the 21 December may be the final call on the Catalan Republic assuming they are allowed to be free and fair. Whether this movement in Catalonia w