A leading think tank has proposed a ban on diesel cars in London within 10 years, and giving local authorities new powers to set Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rates, to bring air pollution within safe and legal levels.
A new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) points out that London is breaking both legal and World Health Organisation (WHO) limits for toxic NO2 and for particulate matter and is not set to comply with legal limits on NO2 until at least 2025.
The report states: ‘It is likely that diesel cars will have to be completely phased out on London’s roads over the next decade in order to reach compliance with safe and legal levels of air pollution.’
Most air pollution comes from road transport
It argues that: ‘Efforts must be made to reduce the number of diesel vehicles on the road, both by increasing the proportion of cleaner and greener vehicles and by a continued shift towards alternative forms of transport, including public transport, walking and cycling.’
The report supports London mayor Sadiq Khan’s recent proposals to extend the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which will ban the most polluting diesels from large parts of London.
Harry Quilter-Pinner, researcher at IPPR and co-author of the report, said: ‘London's air is both lethal and illegal. This is a public health crisis and it should be ignored no longer. As such, we welcome the new mayor's ongoing consultation on measures to address pollution in the capital. He should be ambitious going forward - only bold action will make the capital's air safe to breathe again.’
The report includes new modelling undertaken by King’s College London.
At the European level, it says tighter emissions standards will be required as well as bringing forward the ‘real world’ emissions testing regime.
At a national level, the report says the Government will need to progressively reform VED to disincentivise diesel vehicles.
It adds: ‘If it is unwilling to go far enough at the national level to drive compliance in places with acute air pollution problems like London, the Government could devolve VED rates to those cities that wish to go further.’
A further recommendation for the Government is a scrappage scheme for older diesel cars, either across the UK or in areas of non-compliance with air pollution laws.
Although many campaigners have called for a diesel scrappage scheme, the Government’s national Air Quality Plan, published last December, did not include such a measure.
Mr Khan’s proposals for tackling poor air quality in the capital, launched earlier this month, included ‘developing a detailed proposal for a national diesel scrappage scheme for Government to implement’.