Government air strategy 'shifting the blame' to councils

Clean air plan set to be published

The British government published a draft plan on Friday to improve air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide levels across Britain.

Birmingham and Leeds have already committed to introducing Clean Air Zones by 2020 along with Nottingham, Derby and Southampton.

However, it also considers a smaller, more targeted scheme open to drivers of diesel Euro 1-5 cars and drivers of petrol Euro 1-3 cars, with vehicles being replaced with pure electric vehicles (EVs).

David Green, deputy air quality monitoring manager at King's College London, told BuzzFeed News the lack of financial incentives through a diesel scrappage scheme or penalties for driving in new clean air zones meant the plan was "essentially toothless". "The NFDA is looking forward to engaging with Government and manufacturers to tackle air quality".

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the new measures would "support businesses in building a stronger and cleaner economy".

Measures implemented in the zones could include charging motorists who drive the dirtiest vehicles.

The consultation document suggests that local authorities should be responsible for taking action to cut pollution levels.

The Conservatives said they are opposed to Labour's approach of "hitting motorists in the pocket by imposing charging zones and increasing parking charges".

"The Government must listen to the medical profession and the many people who suffer from poor air quality, and come up with a serious plan to give people air that is fit to breathe".

"Air quality has improved significantly over recent decades through action taken by successive governments and new technologies, but levels of pollution, particularly in urban centres, are still too high", the paper states.


However, government modelling contained in the consultation documents suggests charging schemes are the most cost effective way of tackling air pollution and deliver the largest reduction in NO2 and NOx emissions by an order of magnitude.

New details released show that only 9,000 diesel cars on Britain's roads will be eligible for the proposed "scrappage scheme".

The issue came to a head with environmental law firm ClientEarth's legal battle with the UK Government last November, which challenged them over breaches to European Union air pollution laws and domestic regulation.

Air pollution is linked to 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.

The Government is now seeking views on the proposals before its final plan is published on July 31.

Co-leader Caroline Lucas said: "This feeble plan won't go anywhere near far enough in tackling this public health emergency".

In London, which has some of the worst air pollution in Europe, asthma-sufferer Mayor Sadiq Khan has been pushing for a nationwide diesel scrappage scheme that he says would cost as much as 515 million pounds ($632 million) over two years.

'However, it is deeply worrying that local authorities have an option of introducing chargeable Clean Air Zones which would affect owners of relatively new diesel and some petrol vehicles.

More clean air zones, retrofitting older vehicles with anti-pollution devices and encouraging cycling and walking are among the measures being considered.

However, Hicks added: "Older vehicle engines are just one potential source of urban air pollutants, and we'd be keen to see the strategy tackling air quality across a range of pollution sources, including heating, public transport and shipping".

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