UK government releases long-awaited air pollution proposals
The plans suggest measures ranging from a "targeted" scrappage scheme to take the most-polluting vehicles off the road and retrofitting local bus and lorry fleets, to removing road humps to improve traffic flow, and encouraging more electric cars.
Air pollution is linked to an estimated 40,000 early deaths a year and 37 out of 43 areas across the UK are exceeding legal European Union limits for key pollutant nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from diesel engines.
Documents published by the government show the most effective way to cut illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide is to introduce charges on the dirtiest vehicles in pollution hot-spots in towns and cities.
While local authorities can introduce charging zones, as London is planning to do, the government is warning town halls they should only bring in charges as a last resort.
Ministers were ordered to draw up the new clean air plans following a court challenge by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, with the High Court ruling that existing government proposals to meet EU-mandated pollution limits were not sufficient.
The Environment Department (Defra) lost a last-minute High Court bid to delay revealing the draft plans to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide until after the general election.
Campaigners and opposition politicians have warned the new plans are woefully inadequate. ■