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Government publishes air quality plan for consultation

Fri 05 May 2017 | Back to news list

The Government has published its revised plan to cut levels of nitrogen dioxide in areas of poor air quality throughout the UK. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport (DfT) have published a consultation document, draft AQ plan and  associated technical document which set out proposed actions "to meet air quality standards within the shortest possible time".
The plan builds on proposals for a nationwide network of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) where, it says, targeted action can be taken to improve air quality and where resources can be effectively prioritised. The plan notes that there are 40 towns and cities which are expected to persistently exceed safe NO2 limits. The plan says that examples of targeted action are likely to include:
  • Exploring innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels;
  • Buying ULEVs and encouraging local transport operators to do the same;
  • Encouraging private uptake of ULEVs via ensuring adequate chargepoints;
  • Encouraging use of public transport, cycling, walking, park and ride schemes, and car sharing;
  • Improving road layouts and junctions to optimise traffic flow, for example by considering removal of road humps;
  • Working with local businesses and neighbouring authorities to ensure a consistent approach; and
  • Charging certain types of vehicles to enter or move within the zone
The consultation document says that a number of measures that could be taken to mitigate the impact of action to improve air quality have already been put forward. It says that all would need to be considered in the context of the overall air quality solution and represent value for money. Some examples include:
  • Targeted infrastructure investments, such as measures to improve traffic flow and idling
  • Support for retrofitting initiatives for buses, taxis and HGV fleets
  • A targeted scrappage scheme for vans or cars
On the much-discussed scrappage scheme the consultation says: "Such a scheme would have to be targeted at those most in need of support and be limited in scope. In devising mitigation measures, it will be important to consider the viability of any scheme and its overall cost. If, following this consultation, scrappage is identified as an appropriate mitigation measure, any scheme would need to provide value for money, target support where it was most needed, be deliverable at local authority level and minimise the scope for fraud."
In a supporting technical document, there are more details of potential proposals for a possible scrappage scheme which would take 9,000 of the oldest diesel cars and 6,000 of the oldest petrol cars off the road. However, it notes the likely limited air quality benefits saying:  "The impact of scrapping 15,000 older petrol and diesel vehicles and replacing them with BEVs was estimated to deliver a 0.008μg/m3 reduction in average NO2 concentrations in 2020 (the first year in which air quality impacts from the scheme have been assumed). This would result in around 0.05% of the total stock of conventionally fuelled vehicles (ICEs) in 2019 being scrapped."
Alongside the consultation, the Government has also published:
  • A framework document: Clean air zone framework for England (principles which Local Authorities should follow when setting up clean air zones)
  • A summary of responses to the Implementation of Clean Air Zones in England consultation

The LowCVP will be preparing a response to the air quality consultation over the coming weeks and will be working to ensure that plans to tackle the vital and urgent problem of air pollution complement measures to deal with the longer-term challenge of delivering lower carbon vehicles to limit climate change.

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