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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Ford calls for emissions 'choice'
By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News, London International Motor Show

Ford bio-ethanol-powered car
Ford is investing 1bn in green research in the UK

Carbon pricing at consumer level could become a useful tool to reduce emissions of harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to the head of Ford of Europe.

"Global warming is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind," Lewis Booth, executive vice president of Ford of Europe and Premier Automotive Group, said.

"The truth is that we're all part of the problem, and we must accept that we must all be part of the solution."

To Mr Booth, it is a question of "consumer behaviour and consumer choice".

"In the future, 10 to 15 years from now, every adult in the UK will have a fairly good idea of how much carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere, just as they now know roughly how much money they have in their bank account," Mr Booth said.

"Customers may decide how his or her CO2 allocation is spent."

I will if you will, that's what I say to all stakeholders
Lewis Booth, Ford Europe

That could, for instance, mean walking to work for a year to save up carbon credits so as to take a foreign holiday - or reducing the use of a tumble dryer to be able sometimes to drive a powerful sports car.

Many stakeholders

Mr Booth was eager to stress that the car industry is not the only culprit when it comes to CO2 emissions.

People who filled up their kettles too much, or failed to turn off their computers at night, or let heat escape poorly-insulated houses, were just as responsible.

"The car industry has to play its part," he acknowledged in a speech at the FT International Business Day conference, on the sidelines of the motor show in London.

But he also pointed out that car makers would need the co-operation of the fuel industry, as well as that of governments and consumers.

"Without the wholehearted involvement of the oil industry, we cannot move ahead far enough or fast enough," he said.

"I will if you will, that's what I say to all stakeholders."

Hands off

Mr Booth puts the power of market forces at the core of his proposition.

"Environmental motoring has to be brought into the mainstream," he said, rather than exist on the sidelines - as it by and large does now - as "a lifestyle choice for the wealthy few".

Lewis Booth
Lewis Booth says carmakers are not the only group which must act

He urged governments to provide fiscal stimulus, be they taxes or tax relief, in order to encourage green behaviour.

They should also create legal frameworks, develop infrastructure such as congestion-beating road networks, and provide a framework within which there should be competition.

But beyond that, he warned that governments should not get involved.

"For governments to promote one technology over another would lead to market distortion," Mr Booth said.

"We can't force people to change their behaviour.

"As well as appealing to people's altruism, we must appeal to their self interest."

Bad for business

Mr Booth's speech followed Ford's promise earlier this week to invest 1bn over the next six years in UK-based research and technology development of green motoring.

On the face of it, Ford has thus moved far since the times when the car industry refused to acknowledge the threat carbon dioxide emissions pose to humanity and the world.

"We were the first automotive company to acknowledge publicly the impact of climate change on our business," Mr Booth said.

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