Envoys immune from pollution tax

Diplomats who own gas-guzzling cars can heave a sigh of relief – envoys are to be exempt from the new £25 emissions charge.

The Foreign Office confirmed to Embassy magazine that while diplomats are expected to pay the £8 congestion charge, owners of the worst polluting cars will not be required to shell out the £25 emissions charge.

According to Transport for London, the £25 charge is not considered a charge for “specific services” under Article 34 of the Vienna Conventions, which means diplomats are exempt.

Experts on the Vienna Conventions agree that creating a low emission zone is not a “specific service”; but many argue that reduced congestion is not a specific service either and that diplomats should be exempt from both.

Privately officials admit including diplomats in the emissions charging scheme could cause a revolt against congestion charging as a whole.

According to a survey conducted by Embassy, 62% of missions still pay the congestion charge. Of these, only 6% were considering changing their policy following their exemption from the emissions charge.

Broken down by region, the survey reveals that most OECD countries have boycotted the charge, as have most missions from sub-Saharan Africa. Middle income countries from Latin America and Asia still pay.