In December 2015, the UK’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) unveiled plans for 5 cities outside of London (Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton) to be given enhanced powers to charge high-polluting vehicles for entering the city centre. This is because the Supreme Court ordered DEFRA to comply with European Union law limits on nitrogen dioxide in the air. These five zones are in addition to the existing Low-Emission Zone in the Capital.
All six cities currently granted the enhanced powers were found to have the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide. The government said the zones would both reduce pollution in city centres and encourage the replacement of older vehicles with higher emissions.
High Polluting vehicles means anything prior to Euro6 emission standard for diesels (which means any diesel car before September 2014) or Euro4 standard for petrols (which means any petrol car made before January 2005).
The deadline for when the city authorities need to have these measures up and running is 2020, so less than 4 years from now, however the targets currently only affect buses, commercial vehicles, and taxis. Private cars are not currently affected.
A new study by the Commons Environment Committee has now said that these measures don’t go far enough, and that these measures should be extended to cover many more towns and cities which are also in breach of safe levels of Nitrogen Dioxide, and also include private vehicles.
The committee also suggested:
- The government ensure marketing claims made by vehicle manufacturers were “fully accurate”, following the scandal surrounding the falsifying of emissions by Volkswagen
- A scrappage scheme to provide owners of diesel cars that are more than 10 years old with discounts on ultra-low emission vehicles
This report joins a growing body of challenge to government air pollution policy.
People are outraged by car firms cheating emissions tests. Parents are fed up of hearing their children are breathing harmful air. Campaigners are angry that ministers have tried to water down laws designed to protect public health. Diesel drivers are annoyed at being blamed for running cars that government encouraged them to buy in the first place.
If we are to meet these targets, and create a cleaner urban environment for everyone who lives and works in these areas, we must look at encouraging the uptake of Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles, primarily full-electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF. Time and time again, diesels have proved to be a really bad idea in stop-start urban driving. Let’s finally draw a line under the old rattly oil-burners, and move on in a positive way to a better, cleaner, future.
Not only would every town benefit from cleaner air, but every driver would benefit from reduced fatigue (due to less noise and vibration from the drivetrain), reduced fuel costs, and reduced service and maintenance costs.
Surely that’s got to be better for everyone?