Carmakers should pay for air pollution, say MPs

Diesel smog, haze, pollution
15 Mar, 2018 10:35am Hugo Griffiths

Joint inquiry from four select committees calls for new Clean Air Act, with new clean air fund paid for by motor industry

A cross-party group of MPs from four select committees has written a report calling for a new Clean Air Act to tackle the UK’s air pollution problem.

The report recommends the founding of a new clean air fund, paid for by carmakers on a “polluter pays” principle, to tackle air pollution head on.

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The MPs are also calling for a new set of laws, dubbed the Clean Air Act, which would “enshrine the right to clean air in UK law”. The enquiry also recommends bringing forward from 2040, the date from which the sale of conventional petrol and diesel will be banned, “in line with more ambitious commitments from around the world”.

MPs from the Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, Transport, and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committees carried out an “unprecedented” joint enquiry, accusing the Government of being “more concerned with box-ticking and demonstrating compliance than taking bold, affirmative action”.

Further emissions-based taxes – like the London T-Charge and recent rises in road tax for diesel cars - are also hinted at by the report, which recommends ministers should “take greater account of the costs of air pollution when establishing taxation and spending policy”.

Other recommendations include a new public health campaign to highlight the dangers of air pollution and the targeted installation of charging stations for electric vehicles based on air quality “hotspots”.

The MPs also want greater support for 45 local authorities that are in breach of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits, which are not being tackled by current air pollution plans.

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said: "We are concerned that the Government is treating air quality as a box-ticking exercise. Real change will require bold, meaningful action.

“We are calling on Government to develop a properly resourced support scheme available to all councils struggling with air quality, and to require manufacturers of polluting vehicles to pay their fair share by contributing to an industry-financed clean air fund".

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, accused ministers of not addressing “the polluted air in our choking cities”, while Andrew Selous MP, acting Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, highlighted previous claims air pollution is responsible for 40,000 early deaths each year in the UK.

Commenting on the report, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “The latest Defra report shows there have been improvements in air quality in the UK but more needs to be done.

“Road transport is a major contributor which is why the UK automotive industry is investing billions in technology and other measures to help address the challenge.

"A Clean Air Fund worth £220m has already been set up by Government, funded by changes to vehicle taxation. In addition, vehicle manufacturers are funding scrappage schemes themselves to get the older vehicles off the road.”

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