A leading think tank has called for action from local and central government to move towards cleaner transport to reduce the emission of air pollutants in towns and cities in the north of England.
IPPR North made the comments in its report â€˜Gearing up for the transition: The role of transport in a Northern energy strategyâ€™, published on Tuesday, in which it argued that investment in alternative fuels will be necessary to improve air pollution in the north of the country.
The report states: â€œDemand for cleaner vehicles and their supporting infrastructure is set to increase as major urban centres across the north seek to reduce air pollution levels to within legal limits. The energy system will need to be ready.â€
Among the recommendations are a series of â€˜local levelâ€™ proposals for councils, which includes the publication of easily accessible transport data on air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion and vehicle utilisation rates, in order to aid a switch to low carbon forms of transport.
Local authorities should also look to introduce clean air zones to increase the cost of driving unsustainable vehicles, and councils should seek to work in conjunction with Transport for the North Â to develop local mobility plans to encourage sustainable transport.
On a national level, IPPR has suggested that the government should look to implement a new Clean Air Act, targeting air pollutants including nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, and make an â€˜explicitâ€™ pledge to phase out diesel cars over the coming years.
The organisation adds that the government should look to investigate more ambitious targets for emissions reduction in coming years, as part of its new strategy.
Underpinning these policies would be a mandatory network of clean air zones, covering all major urban areas in the UK, including the north of England.
In the report, IPPR stated: â€œIn recent years, the growing understanding of the leading role road transport plays in contributing to illegal levels of air pollution has dramatically enhanced the political salience of transport policies, with as many as 40,000 deaths being attributed to poor air quality each year. Having lost a series of court cases, the government is now required to produce an air quality plan to bring air pollution to within legal levels within the shortest time possible.
Central and local governments are developing policies to achieve a faster turnover in the vehicle fleets, from diesel and petrol engines to low and ultra low emission alternatives, including electric, hydrogen and gas. This looks set to accelerate a transition to cleaner, more efficient vehicles that has been underway for decades, partly as a result of the imperative to decarbonise transport fleets in meeting the UKâ€™s climate change obligations.â€