Published: Sun, May 07, 2017
Culture | By Henry Herrera

UK mulls clean-air zones, scrappage scheme for polluting vehicles

UK mulls clean-air zones, scrappage scheme for polluting vehicles

James Thornton, chief executive of ClientEarth, says the plan "looks much weaker than we had hoped for". Cleaning up our air means reducing the numbers of cars and lorries on our roads.

It also outlines how a so-called Clean Air Zone would be implemented, stating that vehicles meeting a minimum standard would gain free entry into the zone.

Greenpeace described the proposals as "half baked".

The consultation has been published after a long legal wrangle with green groups.

"As a result, the United Kingdom is now one of 17 European Union countries breaching annual nitrogen dioxide targets". Some 37 of the 43 regions of the United Kingdom are in breach of NO2 limits.

Environmentalists have slammed the Scottish Government for failing to tackle the country's air pollution crisis.

Final decisions will be made by the incoming government, he said. If the Government is swayed on the viability of a scrappage system, it would represent a U-turn on diesel vehicles, after years of policy and tax enablers saw diesel auto sales in Britain increase from 14% to 36%.

A diesel scrappage scheme is not mentioned in the actual 86-page air quality plan, but a technical report which accompanies it does consider its merits and the Government is keen to know what people think in the consultation.

This revised scheme could target Euro 1-5 diesel cars and Euro 1-3 petrol cars, but would be open to all drivers of such vehicles, as opposed to only those living in areas with particularly high levels of pollution.

However, the document added: "The net present value (NPV) for this option is estimated to be -£20 million". The scheme would start in 2019 and be available for one year only.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: "Improving air quality is a key priority as we support businesses in building a stronger and cleaner economy".

However, the ClientEarth lawyers were dismissive of this idea.

Around 6,000 buses, 4,400 black cabs and 2,000 HGVs would be retrofitted by 2020.

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It also suggests a large scale expansion of clean air zones.

Nottingham is being targeted with the plan because its city centre has some of the worst levels of pollution in the UK.

However, a further 36 towns and cities, not including London, have been identified as not meeting legal NO2 limits by 2020 if no additional measures are introduced.

Political opponents weren't impressed with the consultation.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "Whilst I'm pleased the Government has not ruled out my proposals for a targeted diesel scrappage fund there is no commitment to it".

The Liberal Democrats were equally pessimistic about the proposals.

With the Government today publishing its Clean Air Zone framework alongside the draft Air Quality Plan, Dearman has welcomed the framework's recognition of the impact on Britain's air quality of polluting transport refrigeration units.

Opposition parties are furious at the timing of the announcement.

In London, construction equipment accounts for some 7% of emissions leading to the unacceptably high NO2 concentrations and across the country they are important sources of pollution in our towns and cities with poor air quality.

So why so hush-hush?

"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".

May said: "What we want to ensure is that we are getting the balance right here between delivering the air quality improvement that we need, but recognising that there are a lot of people who went out and bought diesel cars because the last Labour government said that was the thing to do".

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