Dearman: Government rightly highlights polluting transport refrigeration once again

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The Environment Department (Defra) lost a last-minute High Court bid to delay revealing the draft plans to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from diesel vehicles, until after the General Election.

The strategy is instead focusing on Clean Air Zones which, according to the technical report, could deliver more than £1bn in net value.

That doesn't mean that it won't happen in the future, but the government appears to be focusing on incentivising alternatively-fuelled vehicles (including hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars) rather than punishing diesel drivers.

The government said it would only approve charging schemes if they are required to ensure "legal compliance within the shortest time possible" and the impacts on local residents and businesses have been fully assessed, including for disadvantaged groups. Such a scheme had been widely rumoured to be part of the Government's plan to address air quality.

The Government is consulting on a range of measures including the option to introduce clean air zones in 27 towns and cities in England to reduce pollution in urban areas. The Zones can be implemented with or without a vehicle cost charge system and are aimed at stimulating business growth as well as improving air quality.

For residents already living inside Clean Air Zones some exceptions will be made because "by the simple virtue of their location they not have the choice open to others of avoiding a zone when in a vehicle", the Government said.

Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman said: "The government's clean air strategy remains opaque and pushes important decisions down the road".

The government has released its draft plans for improving the UK's air quality.

The government's two previous announcements on air pollution were slipped out on the Saturday before Christmas, and on the day Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. But it did suggest a one-year scheme to trade in 9,000 of the most-polluting diesel vehicles, and 6,000 old petrol vehicles, The Mirror reports.

He adds: "The court ordered the government to take this public health issue seriously and while the government says that pollution is the largest environmental risk to public health, we will still be faced with illegal air quality for years to come under these proposals".

He said: "They go nowhere near addressing the public health emergency we are facing".

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has already urged the Government to reintroduce a scrappage scheme in London for older diesel vehicles only. The draft proposals, labelled as the Clean Air Zone Framework, aim to improve the increasingly poor air quality around our biggest cities, and in particular London.

Measures also include tackling road humps and poorly managed traffic lights that increase congestion and pollution, "real driving emissions" tests for vehicles and better consumer advice when buying cars.

The strategy is a response to high levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide emissions and other pollutants which are believed to be responsible for thousands of premature deaths in the United Kingdom every year.

The consultation runs for six weeks, and closes at midnight on 15th June.

"Older auto engines are just one potential source of urban air pollutants, and we'd be keen to see the strategy tackling air quality across a range of pollution sources including heating, public transport and shipping".