Senior figures from Labour and the Green Party have called for ‘immediate’ measures to address air pollution, after it was revealed that the government is set to announce a ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040.
The measure, which will mirror a similar step recently announced by the French government, will reportedly be among the central policies within the government’s Air Quality Plan, which is expected to be published later today.
The proposal has been described as a ‘step forward’ by senior opposition politicians including Sue Hayman, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, and Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party.
However, critics of the policy suggest that a 2040 deadline for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel-only vehicles will do little to address air pollution in the short term.
Commenting on the proposal, Caroline Lucas said: “This is a step forward from the government – and follows years of campaigning on the issue from the Green Party and others. We know that the fumes from cars and lorries are ending thousands of lives prematurely each year, and it’s good to see the government making this move which will protect people’s health and boost a key industry of the future. Though a ban by 2040 is a welcome, it doesn’t go nearly far enough or fast enough.
“We also need action that tackles this health emergency in the coming months and years. Such action must include expanded clean air zones and a fully funded diesel scrappage scheme.
“It’s crucial that scrapping diesel doesn’t simply shift people into other types of car – instead we should use this opportunity to revamp out towns and cities with investment in walking and cycling, and by ensuring that public transport is affordable and reliable.â€?
Labour frontbencher Sue Hayman claimed that the measure would lead to “further consultation and delaysâ€? from government in dealing with air pollution.
She said: “Despite the scale of the problem of illegal air pollution, we are presented today with further consultations and delays, a squeamish attitude to clean air zones, shunting the problem onto local authorities and no detail about how the Government’s 2040 target will be achieved. With nearly 40 million people living in areas with illegal levels of air pollution, action is needed now, not in 23 years’ time.
“This all comes after years of cuts to grants for electric vehicles and just days after the Government announced scrapping the electrification of rail lines and the introduction of diesel trains.
“A Labour Government will introduce a new Clean Air Act to drive challenging emissions reduction targets, introduce a network of clean air zones and invest in greener, integrated public transport systems for the long term.â€?
Ahead of the publication of the final version of the plan, Defra has published a summary of responses received during the consultation on potential options for cleaning up the UK’s air.
According to Defra, consultees claimed that central government needs to take overall ownership, “providing a national framework and leadership for actions to be taken by local authoritiesâ€? on air pollution.
Respondents also showed support for measures such as retrofitting of buses, public transport improvements, and other steps such as car clubs and cycle schemes, as well as a ‘targeted’ scrappage scheme for polluting vehicles, although some suggested that this would represent poor value for taxpayers.