UK clean air ‘strategy’ nothing new

The British government has unveiled a new clean air ‘strategy’ aimed at improving air quality in the UK’s urban areas. T&E has said the plan is eye-catching in some respects but essentially just repeats policies that have failed to clean up transport in the past.

The new strategy comes against a background of UK cities regularly breaching NOx limits that should have been enforced since 2010. Meanwhile, the government has failed to ban the most polluting diesel cars from pollution black spots, and the country faces legal action for several air quality infringements. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March, but its exit may be delayed as it continues to negotiate with Brussels on the extent to which it will be bound by EU laws as a non-member.

The strategy announced last month promises to halve the number of people exposed to harmful fine particulates by 2025. But it does nothing to address the high levels of NOx pollution in British cities, and does not even set a target date for achieving EU NOx limits.

T&E’s director of UK affairs Greg Archer said: ‘This new strategy once again fails to tackle the UK’s biggest source of killer air pollution – the 7.25 million dirty diesel cars on British roads. The government needs to use new regulations to force carmakers to clean up the dirty diesels on the road or ban them from city centres. And when we say ‘dirty diesels’, we’re referring to cars that emit more than three times the legal limit of poisonous NOx.’

In launching the strategy the government stressed that a tough line would be taken on carmakers for any failures in their emissions control system. But the government has yet to take action against any carmaker, and has even failed to fine Skoda for fitting illegal ‘defeat devices’ to its cars as part of the 2015 ‘Dieselgate’ scandal.