Defra plans could see diesel cars banned from towns and cities
Diesel drivers could face restrictions on driving in a number of city centres under new government plans to tackle nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in the UK.
Announced by Defra, the plans have been published for consultation and are intended to help bring the UK into compliance with limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in a number of areas by 2020 and in London by 2025.
In a release, Defra said that plans are targeted especially at major cities such as London, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Southampton and Derby. It added that in addition to the draft UK overview document, it has produced a zone plan for each of the UK’s 38 zones – out of a total of 43 – that were found to be exceeding the maximum annual limit for NO2 in 2013.
The plans ask local authorities who are facing particular challenges to look at further action such as creating Clean Air Zones, introducing low emission buses and taxis, and using data to inform new road layouts.
Defra added that options local authorities can consider include:
- Networks of electric car charging points
- Introducing low emission buses and taxis or converting fleets
- Upgrading cycling infrastructure
- Introducing or expanding park and ride schemes
Defra also highlighted London’s introduction from 2020 of the UK’s first ultra-low emission zone and added that: “Clean Air Zones, in particular, can be a local focal point for action to enhance public transport and accelerate electrification of buses, taxis, vans and cars, to increase both local uptake and support national ambition.”
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “Tackling air pollution is a priority for this government, and we want local authorities and members of the public to come forward and share ideas on action to be taken at local level to make our nation cleaner. From improving bus and taxi fleets to investing in cycling infrastructure and upgrading roads so they run more smoothly, we want to work with our great cities and help them make changes to become greater still.”
In response RAC Business spokesman Simon Peevers said: “Banning cars from towns and city centres, is potentially damaging for businesses and for individuals especially without any clear guidance on long-term solutions.
“Whilst we know there are air quality problems in a number of our cities, there is no consistent approach to a solution.
“Solutions need to target three key elements. Firstly, we must look at the vehicles that generate the most pollution which, of course, varies by vehicle type and age as well as how much it is used.
“Secondly, there must be a focus on the areas with the worst air quality problems. Cars are not necessarily the problem as buses and taxis also make significant contributions to poor air quality.
“Thirdly, we need to recognise that motorists have been encouraged by the taxation system to purchase small fuel-efficient diesel vehicles which have a low carbon footprint. It is therefore unreasonable to punish owners because the reductions in harmful emissions expected to be delivered by the Euro 4, 5 and 6 standards for vehicle emissions have not proven to be as great in real world driving as they are in test cycles.
“At the moment we can see proposals, like the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone, that follow a measured common-sense approach and others that demonise diesel vehicles without regard to the extent to which the vehicles concerned are contributing to the problem.”
The Defra consultation will run for 8 weeks from 12 September to 12.00 midnight on 6 November 2015.