A centre right think tank has called for tough action to tackle air pollution, particularly from road transport, including higher fuel prices and a default 20mph urban speed limit.
Bright Blue, which describes itself as a think tank for liberal conservatism, has published a report, Emission impossible? Air pollution, national governance and the transport sector, which proposes new legal limits, legal responsibilities and policies to 'significantly' reduce levels of air pollution in the UK after Brexit.
Its main policy recommendations for cutting pollution from the transport sector are:
- Lift the freeze on Fuel Duty and apply a surcharge on Fuel Duty for diesel fuel
- Introduce an ongoing surcharge for Vehicle Excise Duty on new diesel cars
- Exempt the purchase of ultra-low emission vehicles from VAT
- Make it a requirement for local authorities with a charging CAZ to introduce a citizen-based reporting system under which people reporting an idling vehicle would get a share of the fine
- Replace the current 30mph default speed limit on all ‘restricted roads’ in England and Wales with a 20mph default limit.
- Require the installation, checking and cleaning of particulate matter filters on all petrol cars through the annual MOT test.
William Nicolle, researcher at Bright Blue and co-author of the report, said the UK’s departure from the EU provides an opportunity to raise air pollution standards in the UK.
He said: ‘Stronger evidence has emerged in recent years about the detrimental impact of air pollution to human health, the economy and the environment. Consequently, there is growing public and political pressure for tougher action to reduce levels of air pollution in the UK.
‘The UK Government needs new, ambitious legal limits, legal responsibilities and policies on air pollution. This country should aspire to be a global leader on yet another environmental issue, and strive to become the country with the cleanest air in urban areas in the developed world.’
Bright Blue’s main policy recommendations for 'increasing national accountability' on air pollution are:
- Adopt the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guideline limits for concentrations for all health-harming air pollutants as soon as possible after a feasibility study by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) or a new Committee on Clean Air.
- Provide the OEP or a new Committee on Clean Air with the responsibility to recommend future legal limits and targets relating to population density for different air pollutants to parliament
- Legal duties should be placed on all local authorities to achieve compliance with relevant legal air pollution limits. Relevant public bodies should have a legal duty to contribute to achieving compliance with legal air pollution limits within their geographic area of responsibility.