The UK is still failing to hit air quality targets which were supposed to be met in 2010, and according to a recent report from the Environmental Audit Committee, these targets won’t be met until 2020 at the earliest.
In a bid to reduce air pollution, an initial target was set by the government’s climate advisors which recommended that ultra-low emission vehicles such as electric cars should make up 9% of all new car and van sales by 2020, which the Committee on Climate Change says is necessary to meet the country’s climate change targets in the most cost-effective way.
Current forecasts by the Department for Transport (DfT), however, show the figure is likely to be about half that by the end of the decade. There is also concern that the Department has not specified what should happen if the target is not met, nor produced a medium-term plan for reducing air emissions beyond 2020.
The UK parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee said ministers were failing to put forward the incentives and infrastructure required to encourage drivers to purchase electric cars, while air pollution has been breaching regulations, with a staggering 38 out of 43 clean air zones exceeding acceptable levels of harmful nitrogen oxides.
The Department for Transport has been urged to create a strategy to increase the use of ultra-low emission vehicles and reduce air pollution so that it can meet decarbonisation and air quality targets, however, the simple introduction of electric cars is unlikely to work as a single measure.
Concerned lobbyists and environmental organisations have stressed that the government needs to go further to have a hope of reducing the public health crisis caused by air pollution, which claims tens of thousands of lives every year and affects the quality of life of many more.
Citing road traffic in general as the largest problem, campaigners have said that the government needs to create a plan for reducing the volume of traffic on the roads and preventing further road construction. Using the Netherlands and Norway as an example of countries which are planning a ban on new diesel and petrol cars from 2025, the UK should follow suit by implementing heavier regulations on car sales and usage.
As pressure on the government builds, new policies are coming into play. It was recently announced that a new London congestion charge would be applicable to older cars, under plans issued by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Under the proposals, the owners of diesel and petrol vehicles manufactured before or up to 2005 that do not meet Euro 4 emissions standards for nitrogen oxide (NO2) and particulates will be required to pay £10 on top of the congestion charge.