Following the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee’s report calling on the government to commit to sustainable transport, air quality pressure groups and politicians have demanded action.
The report, titled ‘Sustainability in the Department for Transport,’ was released today (1 September) and voices concern over the government’s lack of a long-term strategy to help the UK meet its air quality targets and cut vehicle emissions (see AirQualityNews.com story).
In the wake of the report, air quality stakeholders have called for radical action on issues including promoting ultra-low emission vehicles, reducing car dependency and for closer collaboration between government departments.
Alan Andrews, lawyer for the environmental law group ClientEarth, which is taking the government back to court over air pollution on 18 October (see AirQualityNews.com story), commented: “The committee’s report is very welcome for those of us who want the government to get a grip on the UK’s air pollution crisis.
“As well as focusing on the essential business of replacing dirty diesel with low emission and electric vehicles, it highlights the need for the DfT to consider the environmental impact of all its transport projects.
“We need a new Clean Air Act, so that government departments, where relevant, consider air pollution as a matter of course in their decisions and people in Britain are no longer subjected to toxic and illegal levels of air pollution as they are today.â€?
Campaign for Better Transport, which champions sustainable transport solutions, has welcomed the Committee’s report and stated it will be writing to the Department of Transport demanding action.
Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner, said: “The report shows that the government is not doing enough to decarbonise transport and avoid building damaging infrastructure projects.
“Stronger action to clean up polluting vehicles is welcome but ultimately the answer lies in reducing car dependency, getting more freight onto rail and investing in good quality public transport alternatives.â€?
Ms Fox added: “We’ll be writing to the Department for Transport Permanent Secretary demanding action on this report.”
Commenting on the report, Clare Wenner, head of renewable transport at the Renewable Energy Association said sustainable transport is “essential for the future prosperity of the UK.â€?
She added: “The economy literally cannot function optimally if our cities are clogged with pollution and our consumers handicapped by poor air quality.
“Sustainable transport represents a huge opportunity for UK plc not only in promoting our new electric vehicle industry but also in demonstrating the value of our low-carbon fuels, which are now made mostly from waste. These industries are innovative, eager, and need government to play a more positive role in supporting them to the benefits of consumers and the economy.
“We are one of the many stakeholders concerned that the DfT will not meet their legally binding 2020 renewable energy targets. We urge them to work closely with BEIS and other departments to form a clear strategy for renewable fuels and electric vehicle uptake, not only for the short term, but for the coming decades.â€?
Also responding to the report, Labour’s London Assembly environment spokesperson, Leonie Cooper, said the report “hammers homeâ€? the importance of a clear strategy on air pollution.
She commented: “Poor air quality isn’t an issue the government can just wish away, thousands of Londoners are dying prematurely every year because of toxic air.
“The Mayor of London has set the pace with his proposals for a new toxicity charge and plan to extend the ultra-low emissions zone. We now need government to step up, by properly considering the case for a compensatory diesel scrappage scheme and committing to keep European air quality standards.
“Only tough measures will rid our city of toxic air. Government will be letting down Londoners if they fail to act now.â€?
Another recent study, presented at the Royal Geographical Society conference, found little improvement in UK air pollution caused by road transport in the last twenty years and has called for air quality to be treated as a “public health priorityâ€? (see AirQualityNews.com story).