KEN LIVINGSTONE has unveiled the details of plans to charge gas-guzzling cars UKP25 a time for driving around central London, from 27 October this year.

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Even though the new charge has been billed as a tax on 4x4s, its target is not size – or ugliness – of car, but the carbon dioxide emissions spluttered into the atmosphere: vehicles which produce over 226 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/k) will get clobbered.

In general terms, this means cars with engines of greater than 2.5 litre capacity are likely to be hit by the new charge, which adds up to about 33,000 cars a day, reckons Livingstone. Plenty of 4x4s and large people carriers won’t be affected. For example, a Chrysler Grand Voyager 2.8t A4 Diesel – one of the mightiest of people carriers – gets in under the wire with a 225g/k rating.

At the other end of the scale, cars producing less than 120g/k will be able to drive in the centre of town for free, a privilege so far only handed to hybrid and electric vehicles like the Toyota Prius. The vast majority of cars are rated in between the two extremes and will continue to pay the normal UKP8 Congestion Charge.

Coming on top of Livingstone’s recent announcement of a multi-million pound investment in cycling infrastructure, the new “polluter pays” C-Charge beefs up the mayor’s environmental image, which might come in handy for the mayoral election on 1 May.

“The rest of the world is watching to see if we can deliver on this incredibly ambitious target of a 60 percent reduction [of CO2 emissions] by 2025,” said Mark Watts, the mayor’s chief climate adviser, recently.

If Livingstone’s opponents fail to support his plans, they will be pressed on how they aim to meet the 60 percent reduction target, or face accusations they don’t take climate change seriously.