UK unveils new plan to cut NO2; sale of new conventional gasoline and diesel cars to end by 2040; focus on local action
The UK Government unveiled its new plan to reduce roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations in the shortest amount of time. Among the many policy and funding details in the UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations, produced by Defra and the Department for Transport is the cessation of the sale of all new conventional gasoline and diesel cars by 2040. Another element in the plan includes possible civil and criminal charges against manufacturers implementing emissions defeat devices, with fines of up to £50,000 (US$65,000) per instance.
The NO2 plan is one element in the Government’s efforts to deliver clean air. In 2018, the Government will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy which will address other sources of air pollution. Air quality in the UK has been improving significantly in recent decades, with reductions in emissions of all of the key pollutants, and NO2 levels down by half in the last 15 years. Despite this, an analysis of more than 1,800 major roads show that a small number of these—81 or 4%—are due to breach legal pollution limits for NO2, with 33 of these outside of London.
Under existing legislation, the annual average concentration of NO2 in the air must be no higher than 40 μg/m3 across a calendar year in every assessed location in each of the 43 air quality reporting zones of the UK. Additionally, an hourly average concentration over 200 μg/m3 must not be reached more than 18 times in a year. The UK assesses air quality, as well as legal compliance with these obligations, via a combination of monitoring data and modeling. National estimation of background concentrations produces a result for each 1km grid square and each of 9,000 major road links in the UK, which are used to assess compliance.
The UK had announced in 2011 its intention that conventional car and van sales would end by 2040, and for almost every car and van on the road to be a zero emission vehicle by 2050.
The plan outlines how local areas with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hotspots must take robust action. To accelerate action local areas will be asked to produce initial plans within eight months and final plans by the end of next year.
Unlike greenhouse gases, the risk from NO2 is focused in particular places: it is the build-up of pollution in a particular area that increases the concentration in the air and the associated risks. So intervention needs to be targeted to problem areas, fewer than 100 major roads which national modelling suggests will continue to have air pollution problems in 2021, mostly in cities and towns. The effort to reduce NO2 also needs to be targeted on the sources that make the biggest contribution to the problem: road vehicles contribute about 80% of NO2 pollution at the roadside and growth in the number of diesel cars has exacerbated this problem.—UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide
The Government will help towns and cities by providing £255 million (US$333 million) to implement their plans, in addition to the £2.7 billion (US$3.5 billion) already being invested.
|Breakdown of the £2.7 billion already being invested|
Due to the highly localized nature of the problem, the Government said, local knowledge will be crucial in solving pollution problems in these hotspots. The government will require councils to produce local air quality plans which reduce nitrogen dioxide levels in the fastest possible time.
Local authorities will be able to bid for money from a new Clean Air Fund to support improvements which will reduce the need for restrictions on polluting vehicles. This could include changing road layouts, removing traffic lights and speed humps, or upgrading bus fleets.
In developing their local plans to tackle the causes of air pollution, local authorities should consider a wide range of innovative options, exploring new technologies and seeking to support the government’s industrial strategy so that they can deliver reduced emissions in a way that best meets the needs of their communities and local businesses. Their plans could include a wide range of measures such as: changing road layouts at congestion and air pollution pinch points; encouraging public and private uptake of ULEVs; using innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels; and, encouraging the use of public transport.
If these measures are not sufficient, local plans could include access restrictions on vehicles, such as charging zones or measures to prevent certain vehicles using particular roads at particular times. However, local authorities should bear in mind such access restrictions would only be necessary for a limited period and should be lifted once legal compliance is achieved and there is no risk of legal limits being breached again.—UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide
Air pollution continues to have an unnecessary and avoidable impact on people’s health and evidence shows that poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK, costing the country up to £2.7 billion (US$3.5 billion) in lost productivity in 2012.
The UK is one of 17 EU countries breaching annual targets for nitrogen dioxide, a problem which has been made worse by the failure of the European testing regime for vehicle emissions, the Government said.
The government will also issue a consultation in the autumn to gather views on measures to support motorists, residents and businesses affected by local plans—such as retrofitting, subsidized car club memberships, exemptions from any vehicles restrictions, or a targeted scrappage scheme for car and van drivers.
Measures considered will need to target those most in need of support, provide strong value for the taxpayer and be resistant to fraud.
We are determined to deliver a green revolution in transport and reduce pollution in our towns and cities. We are taking bold action and want nearly every car and van on UK roads to be zero emission by 2050 which is why we’ve committed to investing more than £600 million [US$783 million] in the development, manufacture and use of ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020.
Today we commit £100 million [US$130 million] towards new low emission buses and retrofitting older buses with cleaner engines. We are also putting forward proposals for van drivers to have the right to use heavier vehicles if they are electric or gas-powered, making it easier for businesses to opt for cleaner commercial vehicles.—Transport Secretary Chris Grayling
Local authorities will have access to a range of options to tackle poor air quality in their plans such as changing road layouts to reduce congestion, encouraging uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles and retrofitting public transport.
If these measures are not sufficient to ensure legal compliance, local authorities may also need to consider restrictions on polluting vehicles using affected roads. This could mean preventing polluting vehicles using some of these roads at certain times of the day or introducing charging, as the Mayor of London has already announced.
The Government said thatlocal authorities should exhaust other options before opting to impose charging. Any restrictions or charging on polluting vehicles should be time-limited and lifted as soon as air pollution is within legal limits and the risk of future breaches has passed.
The Government said it will assess the plans to make sure they are effective, fair, of good value and will deliver the required improvements in air quality in the shortest time possible. If local plans do not meet that test, government will require councils to take action to achieve legal compliance.
The Government is supporting local areas to develop these plans through:
A £255-million implementation fund for all immediate work required to deliver plans within eight months to address poor air quality in the shortest time possible.
A Clean Air Fund for councils to bid for money to introduce new measures such as changing road layouts to cut congestion and reduce idling vehicles, new park and ride services, introducing concessionary travel schemes and improving bus fleets. More details will be announced later this year.
A £40-million [US$52 million] Clean Bus Technology Fund grant scheme—part of a £290-million [US$378 million] National Productivity Investment Fund announced in the Autumn Statement—to limit emissions from up to 2350 older buses. Government remains committed to putting the public finances back on a sustainable footing; all money spent on air quality measures will be funded through changes to the tax treatment for new diesel vehicles or through reprioritization within existing departmental budgets. Further details will be announced later this year.
Other newly announced measures include:
Van drivers are set to be given the right to use heavier vehicles if they are electric or gas-powered, in measures that will help improve air quality in towns and cities across the country.
Manufacturers found to be using devices on their vehicles to cheat emissions tests could face criminal and civil charges, with fines of up to £50,000 (US$65,000) for every device installed, under proposed new laws.
The Government expects Local Authorities to produce draft plans in eight months and final plans by December 2018.