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New report released by UK House of Commons calls for advancing date for end of sale of conventional cars to before 2040

The UK House of Commons has released a new on air pollution that calls for urgent action by national leadership to bring about a step change in how the problem of air quality is tackled.

The joint inquiry resulting in the report “Improving Air Quality” was launched in 2017 amid concerns about the inadequacy of the UK Government’s plan to improve air quality in the UK. The report makes a number of recommendations on the Government’s approach to air quality and how the delivery of the 2017 plan should be improved.

Air pollution cuts short an estimated 40,000 lives across the UK each year, costing an annual £20 billion (US$28 billion). Children, the elderly, and those with existing medical conditions are at the greatest risk.

The UN special rapporteur recently said he was “alarmed that despite repeated judicial instruction, the UK government continues to flout its duty to ensure adequate air quality and protect the rights to life and health of its citizens. It has violated its obligations”.

Broadly, the report says that the Government needs to:

  • Place the protection of public health and the environment, rather than technical compliance or political convenience, at the center of air quality policy.

  • Develop a properly resourced national air quality support scheme available to all local authorities struggling with air pollution.

  • Introduce a Clean Air Act to improve existing legislation and enshrine the right to clean air in UK law.

  • Initiate a national health campaign to highlight the dangers of air pollution, including the fact that air quality can be far worse inside a vehicle than on the street. Regular motorists, children, and vulnerable groups must be informed of these risks. These groups must be provided with accurate, localized air pollution data.

  • Bring forward the date by which manufacturers must end the sale of conventional gasoline and diesel cars to before 2040 in line with more ambitious commitments from around the world.

    The Government should conduct a feasibility assessment to determine the earliest date by which this could be achieved, balancing the health impacts of air pollution with economic and practical considerations. We expect the Government to then require manufacturers to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles by this earlier date. The Government should inform us of the outcome of its assessments in response to this Report.

  • Manufacturers of private, public and commercial vehicles should also take steps to reduce emissions from tires and braking mechanisms, known as the ‘Oslo effect’, which is also a significant contributor to poor air quality.

  • Require the automobile industry to contribute to a new clean air fund, following the ‘polluter pays’ principle, on a scale that adequately compensates for the health costs of diesel pollution.

  • Align climate change schemes, urban planning, public transport and fiscal incentives with air quality goals to prevent Government policy from working at cross-purposes.

The report wraps with some three dozen more detailed recommendations, including:

It is important that the switch to electric vehicles does not simply move emissions from the tailpipe to power plants. The Government should produce a detailed roadmap outlining how the predicted increase in energy consumption arising from greater ULEV uptake will be produced using clean sources, and the concrete steps needed to ensure these goals are met.

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