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Air quality requires action from central government, says CIEH

The Government’s recently announced air quality plans unfairly shift the burden on solving the problem to local authorities and should instead put the focus on action from central government.


The CIEH says central government must take responsibility for air quality issues rather than passing the burden to local authorities.

So says the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) as latest analysis by Friends of the Earth – published on the UK’s first National Clean Air Day (Thursday 15 June 2017) – finds that the Government’s own data shows that 58 local authorities across the UK will still have illegal levels of air pollution in 2019 without further action being taken.

According to the CIEH – the membership body for environmental health professionals – local authorities are being set up for failure if the proposed Defra plans – which close for consultation today – go ahead.

Tony Lewis, head of policy at the CIEH, said: “We stand on the cliff-edge of a national public health emergency and these plans are devoid of substantive proposals, timescales for addressing the key challenges, clarity around targets or even availability of resources to support necessary actions.”

The organisation has also expressed concern that Clean Air Zone (CAZ) trials are taking place in only five English cities and have not been running long enough to demonstrate successful results. And it says CAZs will lead to people seeking alternative routes to avoid the zones and will cause pollution in other areas.

Instead the CIEH says the Government should provide appropriate levels of financial support to target areas where air pollution is highest and where the largest number of people are exposed, and also calls for actions to remove tax incentives on diesel and transfer these incentives to Ultra Low Emission Vehicles and Zero Emission Vehicles infrastructure development.

The call comes as Friends of the Earth releases maps that show which parts of the country would continue to have toxic air for many years to come.

In addition to the 58 council areas that can expect illegal air in 2019, the figures reveal that Birmingham and Leeds would still have illegal levels of air pollution in 2026, and London would still have illegal levels in 2030.

In response, the environmental charity is calling for properly funded, charging Clean Air Zones to be introduced by the end of 2018, covering all places where air is otherwise predicted to be at illegal levels in 2019 and beyond.

Meanwhile the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has also outlined its strategy for tackling road transport’s impact on UK air quality, saying that the government plans should take a balanced approach to incentives and restrictions and not punish fleets and drivers for decisions based on previous policies.

The BVRLA also urges the Government to provide industry with confidence in the Euro 6 standards by legislating to ensure all compliant vehicles may be operated across the UK without additional cost or restrictions and to work with the BVRLA to promote vehicle rental, leasing, car clubs and other potential solutions for businesses and individuals affected by the new Clean Air Zones.

And the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has also published a white paper that explores the issue of air quality and the range of possible solutions that are currently being studied or trialled, such as targeting charging infrastructure to drive EV take-up, traffic management and looking at Low Emission Strategies (LES)/ Low Emission Zones (LEZ) – although as with the CIEH, it also warns that these can cause polluting vehicles to divert elsewhere.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 14 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. Natalie works across the magazine portfolio and updates the company websites with daily news, interviews and road test content.

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