‘Bold action’ required: UK mayors unite in calls for 2030 diesel and petrol phase-out
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has teamed up with the mayors of Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands to urge ministers to bring forward their 2040 ban on new diesel and petrol car sales by a decade.
The cross-party call to action, which is being organised by Khan, the UK100 group and think tank IPPR, claims that moving the ban forward would cut air pollution levels by almost a third (30%) and potentially “boost the UK’s economy by up to £3bn” by spurring the electric vehicle (EV) revolution.
Khan said that while Michael Gove had made “a good start” on tackling air pollution since his appointment as Environment Secretary, he believes the Government “simply cannot afford to delay” the ban and should “match [the coalition’s] ambition”.
“We have to take bold action, but while we’re all doing what we can, we need government support to do even more,” Khan said.
“Banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, providing support to deliver Clean Air Zones in cities and introducing a national vehicle renewal scheme will dramatically improve our air quality and our health.”
The group also cited research by the University of Oxford and University of Bath, which concluded that poor air quality contributes to more than 40,000 premature deaths each year and costs the NHS and society £6bn annually, as a reason to initiate the phase-out sooner.
Earlier action would additionally ease the UK’s reliance on oil imports at a time when oil and gas production from the North Sea is declining.
The group intervention, which comes ahead of a national air quality summit this Wednesday (June 20), is also calling for the Government to introduce a new Clean Air Act, launch a targeted scrappage scheme to help get the oldest diesel vehicles off the road and increase funding for new clean air zones in cities through a new Clean Air Fund.
The coalition believes the moves could bring levels of nitrogen dioxide back within legal limits after continuously breaching limits in most of the nation’s urban districts since 2010.
Similarly, the Green Alliance found that an earlier phase-out for new diesels and petrol cars would affect the looming gap in the UK’s legally binding 2030 climate target. A 2030 deadline would cut the gap by 85%, or 98 million tonnes CO2e.
Running on fumes
Public and political concern surrounding petrol and diesel pollution has mounted since the transport sector overtook energy in 2016 as the UK’s single biggest source of carbon emissions, as power generation switched away from coal and towards renewables.
Carbon emissions from the average new car also rose last year, for the first time in nearly two decades, as drivers opted for bigger models, despite rising levels of EV adoption.
The UK has been taken to court over air pollution numerous times in recent years. In an effort to address the issue, the Government published its new clean air strategy in May, which it claims will reduce the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1bn every year by 2020.
However, the new strategy has come under fire from Labour politicians and green groups for doing little to tackle dirty diesel vehicles.
In the corporate sphere, top car makers including VW, BMW, Renault and Volvo are all moving to ramp up investment into EV production and battery research and innovation, but car industry body the SMMT maintains that outright bans on petrol and diesels risk harming the new car market, and the sector could be undermined if not given enough time to adjust.
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