Environment minister Therese Coffey has made a strong suggestion that the government will be consulting on a ‘targeted’ scrappage scheme for polluting vehicles later in the year.
The minister has confirmed that the measure is one of a number of potential proposals being examined to support motorists affected by plans to tackle air pollution in towns and cities across the country.
A scrappage scheme, targeted in particular at older diesel cars, had been expected to be included in the government’s air quality plan, which was published in the summer. However the government said that the measure would only be considered “where it can deliver value for taxpayers”.
This week, Dr Coffey told parliament that a vehicle scrappage scheme is among the measures being explored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), alongside other proposals including vehicle retrofits.
Some car makers, including Ford, Volkswagen and Toyota have announced their own scrappage schemes for older vehicles.
Responding to a written question from the DUP MP David Simpson on the measure, she wrote: “In July this year the government launched the UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations. The government has required local councils to produce local air quality plans which reduce nitrogen dioxide levels in the fastest possible time.
“The government is considering how to support people impacted by local plans and will consult in the autumn on measures to support affected motorists, residents and businesses. This could, for example, include retrofitting vehicles, support for car clubs, improved public transport offers or targeted vehicle scrappage.
“A number of vehicle manufacturers have recently launched their own national scrappage and trade in schemes that offer substantial discounts off the purchase of a new vehicle.”
A scrappage scheme for older more polluting vehicles is favoured by environmental groups and local authorities who are keen to ensure that drivers are encouraged to switch to more modern and lower emission vehicles.
Senior political figures including the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and the West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, have backed vehicle scrappage, as well as 67 cross-party MPs who signed a joint letter to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove in the summer.
Any measures announced by the government are likely to follow the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget on 22 November.
The Treasury is also likely to consider the tax treatment for diesel vehicles, with government under pressure to increase vehicle excise duty on diesel cars to encourage people to move towards vehicles with lower emissions of air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide.
Diesel vehicles are known to emit lower levels of CO2 than petrol vehicles, thus helping to reduce the impact of transport on climate change, and have therefore enjoyed favourable taxation rates compared to petrol cars.
However, diesel cars, in particular those built prior to 2009, also emit higher levels of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, which can worsen air quality and harm human health.