Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, is changing the congestion charge to an emissions tax, and has introduced a £25 daily charge on vehicles in London that emit more than 225g of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

People carriers and 4x4s will no longer be exempt from the residents’ discount, so the 15,000 owners of such vehicles who are currently living inside the congestion charging zone will see their daily payment rise by 3,000 per cent, from 80p to £25.

Cars falling into the road tax bands of A and B will now become exempt from the charge, although larger hybrids, such as the Lexus hybrid, will no longer be exempt after January 2010.

The £25 charge comes into effect on October 27.

At yesterday’s announcement, Mr Livingstone was corrected by one of his officials after he stated that 3,000 cars would currently be liable for the £25 charge. The actual figure is 33,000.

Mr Livingstone said: ‘I have every sympathy with Scottish hill farmers who need 4X4s to get around. But there is no justification for cars which produce this amount of CO2 in Central London.’

The Mayor will collect an additional £30-50million each year from the increased charges, but insists that all profit will be re-invested in improvements to transport systems.

Mr Livingstone also claims that the charges are needed to help tackle climate change, although a report by his transport authority, Transport for London (TfL), concluded that the impact of this scheme could be a CO2 reduction of just 0.001 per cent of the total annual emissions from surface transport in London.

The best possible result it could yield, said the TfL report, was an emission reduction of 0.05 per cent of London’s total.

Poor results, says the report, is because sales of band A and B cars rose by 17 per cent, to 128,000 last year, which means that all these drivers will be exempt from any congestion charge (from October 27). The report says that it is highly likely, therefore, that these drivers will not use public transport from October 27, but will drive into the capital instead, thus contributing to overall emissions.

Mr Livingstone has admitted that he may have to cancel the exemption for band B cars, which emit between 101g/km and 120g/km, if it turns out that many more people drive them into London.

Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate for the mayoral elections in May, said: ‘The Mayor has just given the green light for richer people to buy smaller cars and enter the zone for free while families who struggle with one big car are left feeling the pinch.’

Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat candidate, said: ‘This is an incredibly inefficient revenue-raising exercise which will have very little environmental benefit. If we’re serious about tackling pollution we should force manufacturers to meet new emissions targets and increase vehicle excise duty for big polluters.’

Ken Livingstone’s new £25 daily charge on vehicles in London that emit more than 225g of carbon dioxide per kilometre will come into effect on October 27.

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