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More UK Cities & Towns Should Have “Clean Air Zones,” UK Committee Argues

More cities in the UK should be granted the enhanced powers allowing for the ban of highly polluting vehicles from city centers — powers being granted to London, Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham, and Southampton — according to the UK’s Commons Environment Committee.

The committee argues that such powers are necessary to tackle poor air quality.

These proposed “clean air zones” — outlined last year in a plan released by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in response to a Supreme Court ruling ordering compliance with EU law limits on nitrogen dioxide — primarily affect old diesel vehicles (old buses, taxis, lorries, etc).

While the clean air zones outlined in the report are expected to be introduced by 2020, it should be noted that London has its own plans as well. The newly elected mayor of the city has revealed that the “ultra low emission zone” being introduced there will apply to all vehicles, including personal ones.

BBC News provides more:

The report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said emissions had been declining significantly but there were 40,000–50,000 early deaths each year in the UK because of cardiac, respiratory and other diseases linked to air pollution.

Committee chairman Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “Only five cities… will have new powers to charge polluting vehicles to enter new clean air zones. Councils in the dozens of other English cities currently exceeding EU pollution limits must also be given the option of using such powers if their communities support action.”

The current plans for the zones, added the report, imposed a “one size fits all” model. It said local authorities must be given “greater flexibility in order that they can tailor measures to best meet their local circumstances.

The committee also mentioned the need to make sure that auto manufacturers aren’t skirting the rules, and that claims made by them are “fully accurate.” A clear reference to the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal, and perhaps also the notoriously inaccurate NEDC ratings.


Other suggestions include: providing owners of old diesel cars with discounts on ultra-low emissions vehicles; and incentives for the agricultural sector to reduce contributions to air pollution.

On that note, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently named Glasgow, Scotland, amongst 11 urban regions in the UK and Ireland that have air pollution levels higher than the safety levels set by the prominent organization.

Interestingly, though, a spokesperson for Glasgow City Council noted that the city had met its air pollution targets in 2015. So there seems to be some sort of disconnect there….

Here’s more on that:

Glasgow was one of a number of places which breached the safe limit set for PM10.

…More than 40 towns and cities across Britain and Ireland breached the safe levels for another measure known as PM2.5. WHO said that across the world 80% of cities that measure outdoor air pollution are failing to meet its guidance for safe levels of air quality.

…Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said air pollution caused 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.

He added: “This is a public health crisis. It’s time it was treated that way. We need fewer and cleaner vehicles with a Clean Air Zone in every city and large town – and politicians must urgently introduce a diesel scrappage scheme to get the worst polluting vehicles off our roads, as well as more investment in alternatives to driving.”

Here’s the WHO list of the 40 towns and cities in the UK and Ireland that surpassed “safe” levels for PM2.5:

Longford, Ireland
Port Talbot
Bray, Ireland
Leamington Spa
Galway, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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