Greenpeace calls for London diesel scrappage scheme

On the same day that environmental law firm ClientEarth won an historic air quality court battle with the Government, a new report supported by Greenpeace has called for urgent action to phase out diesel vehicles from London's roads to ensure air pollution is brought down to safe levels.

The paper released by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank shows that diesel vehicles are now responsible for almost 40% of all NO2 emissions in London. According to IPPR, the capital will fail to reach compliance with the legal limits on the toxic chemical until at least 2025 under current policy.

The Lethal and Illegal report puts forward a range of proposals which it states could be worth up to £800m per year and result in an estimated gain of up to 1.4 million life-years over a lifetime across the Greater London population.

IPPR research fellow on climate change, energy and transport policy Laurie Laybourn-Langton said: “This won’t be easy and so our plan includes a number of measures that reduce the cost to citizens of cleaning up transport. The costs of inaction, in terms of poor health and lost business, are already too high.”

London is currently breaking World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for NO2 and particulate matter, which means an estimated 10,000 lives are prematurely lost every year and costs as much as £3.7bn annually. Mayor Sadiq Khan recently unveiled detailed proposals to improve the situation, including the opening of an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London in 2019 and a capital-wide emissions surcharge, known as the T-charge, for older, polluting vehicles, to be introduced in October next year.

Greenpeace and IPPR support the Mayor’s plans but highlight a need to accelerate action. The groups propose a charge on all non-zero emissions cars in inner London by 2025, with action on other vehicles such as buses and vans. The Mayor is also urged to phase out diesel taxis by 2025, and ensure that revenues raised by vehicle charges are reinvested into the public transport network and other sustainable options such as car sharing and cycling.

Greenpeace senior air quality campaigner Barbara Stoll said: “We welcome Sadiq Khan’s plans to tackle air pollution, but this report shows that we need to go much further and get serious about phasing out diesel cars if we are to stop thousands of Londoners losing their lives to dangerous levels of pollution.”

The paper recommends that these measures are accompanied by ambitious national Government policy. A new Clean Air Act that targets air pollution is proposed, in conjunction with a reformed ‘road tax’ to dissuade motorists from driving diesel vehicles. IPPR and Greenpeace suggest that a diesel scrappage scheme linked to public transport and car club membership would make the phase out affordable for poorer drivers and businesses.

Damning indictment

The report comes on the same day that a High Court ruling allowed a judicial review of the UK Government’s plans to tackle air pollution. In a damning indictment of Defra’s “woeful approach” to reduce air pollution levels – which have consistantly broken EU legal limits since 2010 – Mr Justice Garnham agreed with ClientEarth that policymakers had failed to take measures that would bring the UK into compliance with the law “as soon as possible”.

Both the High Court’s decision and the IPPR report have been welcomed by campaign group Friends of the Earth, which itself supports calls for a new Clean Air Act, a diesel scrappage scheme and the establishment of Clean Air Zones in all the UK’s cities and major towns.

“Today’s court win is fantastic news for our health, but campaigners shouldn’t have to judicially review the Government just to make sure we can all breathe clean air” Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said. “Air pollution is an invisible killer, leading to 40,000 early deaths each year in the UK.

“The good news is that the Government will now have to put in place plans for more Clean Air Zones across the country to deal with our illegally dirty air.”

George Ogleby

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