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While T&E welcomes the publication of the Environment Bill in its current form, the draft law fails to even offer the same environmental protections post-Brexit that are currently provided through EU membership. In particular the inability of the new agency to fine the government if it does not meet its own targets is a key failing. The omission of an ambitious target to tackle fine particle (PM2.5) emissions also shows the government is still racked with indecision on whether it is willing to clamp down on both exhaust pollution from dirty diesel engines and particles from tyres and brakes of all vehicles. Recent research shows that air pollution shortens the average life by 1.5 years and kills more people in Europe than smoking.
UK government plans to radically decarbonise transport amount to nothing more than an announcement that it will be reviewing its current inadequate policies and targets next year. The decision to move to net-zero emissions by 2050 requires the Department for Transport (DfT) to take radical steps to decarbonise, yet today’s statement includes no clear commitments to do anything new. The DfT should have announced that it intends to ensure no more cars with engines are sold after 2030 and that it will work with cities to actively discourage the use of cars for all unnecessary short trips. Also, the Treasury must end the freeze on fuel duty and introduce taxes on aviation fuel in the forthcoming budget to show it is serious about tackling the climate emergency.
Greg Archer, UK director at Transport & Environment, said: “Today’s announcements do little to address the UK’s environmental emergency. The proposed Environment Bill will create an undernourished, toothless watchdog. Without ambitious targets and actions to tackle air pollution, people will continue to die unnecessarily early. We need action, not warm words to decarbonise transport, but today’s announcements are just hot air.”