UK air pollution plan rehashes failed strategy for transport

The UK government’s new air pollution plan simply repeats existing plans that have failed to clean up transport – instead of proposing effective new emissions controls, sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) has said. The Clean Air Strategy published today does not even set out when nitrogen dioxide (NOx) limits – which are widely breached in British cities and should have been met in 2010 – will be achieved. Diesel cars are the main source of NOx emissions in urban areas.

The government’s pledge to halve the number of people exposed to harmful fine particulates by 2025 is striking, but T&E said faster progress is needed along with legally binding rules that ensure no citizen can be exposed to harmful levels of pollution.

Greg Archer, T&E’s UK director, said: “This new strategy once again fails to tackle the UK’s biggest source of air pollution, the seven million dirty diesel cars on the UK’s 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.”

The strategy has failed to introduce a national network of clean air zones (CAZs), which would take the most polluting vehicles out of the most polluted areas. T&E said this would be by far the most effective solution to the urban air pollution problem.

The government plan also does nothing new to tackle the existing dirty diesel cars on the road. T&E estimates there are 7.25 million dirty diesels being driven in the UK – each emitting more than three times the legal limit of poisonous NOx.

While the plan highlights new legislation to compel carmakers to recall vehicles for any failures in their emissions control system, this is only implementing new EU rules. The government has so far failed to apply the new rules and bring action against any carmaker to clean up their cars. It has even failed to fine Skoda for fitting illegal defeat devices to its cars as part of the 2015 dieselgate scandal – even though those cars were approved by the UK Department for Transport’s own Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).

Greg Archer added: “Tens of thousands of people die every year in the UK as a result of breathing the toxic air. Families don’t want to hear about long-term plans and strategies – they want effective action today to make the air safer, not promises for tomorrow.”

Transport and Environment is a federation of around 60 campaigning groups working for more sustainable transport. Based in Brussels, it has now established a dedicated UK office.

Contact the press team

Nico Muzi
Communications Director
+32 (0)484 27 87 91 
nico.muzi@transportenvironment.org

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