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Lib Dems set out National Air Quality Plan in manifesto

Range of measures on low emission vehicles, MOT testing and EU air quality limits outlined in Party’s election plan

The Liberal Democrats have promised to introduce a ‘National Air Quality Plan’ – including policies on statutory low emission zones, MOT testing and meeting EU nitrogen dioxide standards – in the Party’s 2015 General Election manifesto.

Launched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in South London today (April 15), the 158-page document devotes a chapter to ‘Air quality and greener transport’, in which it describes poor air quality as a “significant health problemâ€?.

Deputy PM and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg

Deputy PM and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg

The Party pledges to pass a Green Transport Act, which would include a National Plan to “improve dramatically Britain’s air quality by 2020â€?.

This ‘National Air Quality Plan for consultation’ will include:

  • A legal requirement targeted at the most polluted towns and cities, to create Low Emission Zones.
  • New incentives for local schemes that cut transport-related pollution, and encourage walking and cycling.
  • A review of the MOT process, to see whether changes could be introduced to cut emissions from existing vehicles.
  • Support for new EU proposals on air quality targets and updated plans to more quickly meet existing EU air quality standards for concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.

Furthermore, the Party says it will support “ambitious EU vehicle emission standardsâ€? and reform Vehicle Excise Duty to: “drive continuous reductions in greenhouse gas and other pollutants from the UK car fleet and return revenues to levels projected in 2010. This will include introducing separate banding for new diesel cars.â€?

Other transport pledges include: helping bus companies to “trade in older, more polluting buses and coaches for newer, lower emission onesâ€?; supporting options for an intercity cycleway along the HS2 route; continued support for industry development of zero emission fuel cell electric vehicles; and the introduction of a UK-wide hydrogen fuelling infrastructure.

The manifesto also states: “We will set a target of 2040 for the date after which only Ultra-Low Emission vehicles will be permitted on UK roads for non-freight purposes.â€?

In addition, the Lib Dems are promising to implement the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling report, including “steps to deliver a £10 a head annual public expenditure on cycling within existing budgetsâ€? to allow “greater investment in cycling including bike lanes, high-volume secure bike parking, and road safety measures to keep cyclists safeâ€?.

Governance

The manifesto also refers to a restructuring of the way government handles environmental policy and issues.

It states: “We will improve the way government handles the cross-cutting challenges of delivering green growth and fighting climate change, establishing a senior Cabinet Committee to coordinate action and bringing together officials in inter-departmental units on issues like air quality and resource management. We will replicate the success of the Office for Budget Responsibility with an Office for Environmental Responsibility scrutinising the government’s efforts to meet its environmental targets.â€?

Transport

According to the manifesto, the UK needs “better transport infrastructure, a modern railway system, and less congestion on our roadsâ€?.

As such, the Party is pledging to “set a clear objective to shift more freight from road to rail and change planning law to ensure new developments provide good freight access to retail, manufacturing and warehouse facilitiesâ€?.

Furthermore, the Lib Dems say they will encourage local authorities to “consider trams alongside other options, and support a new generation of light rail and ultra-light rail schemes in towns and cities where local people want themâ€?,

No airport expansion

The manifesto is also very clear on the Party’s opposition to airport expansion, emphasising that the Lib Dems “remain opposed to any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport in the Thames Estuary, because of local issues of air and noise pollution. We will ensure no net increase in runways across the UK.â€?

However, the Party does also promise to “carefully consider the conclusions of the Davies Review into runway capacity and develop a strategic airports policy for the whole of the UK in the light of those recommendations and advice from the Committee on Climate Changeâ€?.

Coal power

With regards to energy generation, the manifesto highlights the Party’s support for the likes of sometimes controversial biomass plants, but it promises to “regulate to end the use of unabated coal in electricity generation by 2025 because of its high carbon emissions and impact on local air qualityâ€?.

Furthermore the Party says it will “require any new gas stations built after 2030 to be fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologyâ€? and adds that it will “implement a second phase of CCS projects by 2020â€?.

And, on health, the manifesto states: “Liberal Democrats will act to ensure that everything government does supports people to improve their wellbeing: we will work to improve the wider factors that affect our health like warm homes, good air quality and access to healthy food so everyone can have the best opportunity to lead a healthy life.â€?

Labour launched its 86-page manifesto on Monday (April 13), ahead of the Conservative Party’s 83-page manifesto yesterday (April 14). The Green Party also launched its manifesto yesterday, while UKIP is launching its manifesto in Thurrock, Essex, today.

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