There has been a long-running debate about what type of labels should be used to show the CO2 emissions from new vehicles.
A 1999 EU Directive required showroom labels for all new models, and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders introduced its own label listing raw data on CO2 emissions and fuel consumption (ENDS Report 297, p 42 ).
However, pressure built for an A-G label, similar to those used on electrical appliances, to allow motorists to compare vehicles more easily. The discussion centred around whether the label should be based on absolute emissions - so reflecting the fact that larger vehicles tend to emit more CO2 - or whether it should differentiate between models of a similar size (ENDS Report 323, p 34 ).
A year ago, the Government revealed that it wanted to press ahead "as soon as possible" with an A-G colour-coded label based on absolute emissions. But the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LCVP), the official body set up to bring the industry together with pressure groups, was slow to give its backing (ENDS Report 350, pp 35-36 ).
The National Society for Clean Air accused some industry representatives in the LCVP of blocking a UK label because they feared losing market share. The industry insisted that the disagreement was on timing rather than substance and that it would back a UK label provided it would not be replaced too quickly by proposed EU-wide label.
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced agreement on the new label at a LCVP conference in February. Significantly, all 42 car brands which sell in the UK have signed up to the voluntary scheme
The label - which should be on display in showrooms by 1 September - has six colour-coded bands corresponding to six grades of vehicle excise duty. However, one possible source of confusion is that VED currently runs from AAA to D whereas the label is runs from A to F (see figure).
Philip Sellwood of the Energy Saving Trust said that the new labels "could go a long way to raise the market share of low carbon cars." Tim Brown of the National Society for Clean Air put aside his previous concerns and congratulated the UK motor industry for taking the lead. Friends of the Earth also welcomed the new labels - but called for VED to be raised to £500 per year for the most polluting cars and abolished for the cleanest vehicles.
However, Conservative transport spokesman Tim Yeo said that the scheme does not go far enough. The Tories called for colour-coded tax discs to be permanently on display on all cars on the road.