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Study finds new taxation needed to offset environmental costs caused by cars

A newly released study proposes that private car owners using Swiss roads should be taxed in a more efficient way in order to offset billions of Swiss francs in environmental damage caused annually by vehicle owners.

This content was published on September 13, 1999 - 16:12

A newly released study proposes that private car owners using Swiss roads should be taxed in a more efficient way in order to offset billions of Swiss francs in environmental damage caused annually by vehicle owners.

The Swiss National Science Foundation, presenting its findings at a news conference in Berne, underlined the fact that the negative impact of privately owned cars – such as pollution, accidents or noise-related damages – totals about SFr7 billion ($4.6 billion) per year.

That amount is not covered by car owner insurance or fuel tax. Therefore, the study proposes several measures that could help offset the financial shortfall.

One suggestion is that drivers should be charged according to how often they use their car and how far they drive: an average charge of 5 centimes per kilometre would cover most of the current costs incurred by non-commercial traffic, according to the experts.

The study also proposes that Swiss motorways, which are financed by taxpayers, be operated independently by state-owned or commercial groups.

Last year, voters approved a kilometre-taxation system for lorries on Swiss roads in order to tax those vehicles which cause the environmental damage. Thus, Swiss and non-Swiss lorries weighing more than 3.5 tonnes have to pay between 0.6 and 3.0 centimes per tonne and kilometre driven on any Swiss road.

The introduction of the tax was only approved after a long and heated debate over how much damage cars really cause, who should pay for it and whether motorists were not paying enough already.

The issue of pro-environment taxation of road haulage has also been a matter of some disputes between the European Union and Switzerland, which signed a series of bilateral accords in June. Those accords still have to be ratified by both sides.

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