The Decline of Diesel, the change in Emission Testing and the Government focus on Air Pollution have all risen out of the decline of air quality in Major UK cities. Research has shown that 37 of the UK's 43 air quality zones don't meet EU nitrogen dioxide limits, this is almost 90 percent of all 'air quality zones' in Britain.
The focus on air pollution and emissions has resulted in a range of government announcements involving clean air zones and low emission zones. There are two main types of clean air zones - a charging zone were vehicles must pay to enter the zone if they exceed certain levels of emissions and non-charging zones where a range of other measures can be used which don’t involve charging road users.
Clean Air Zones England
Government publications such as the 'Air Quality Plan' and the 'Clean Air Zone Framework' have identified and set out expected plans for reducing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels with a focus on the local authority led clean air zones.
The 'Air Quality Plan' selected 29 of the worst polluting local authorities in England and ordered them to improve air quality. Further to this the 'Clean Air Zone Framework' set out the expectation for local councils to tackle air quality pollution, with the government having set out a preference of Clean Air Zones by 2019 for five cities; Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton.
Following London’s example, it is anticipated that councils may charge high polluting vehicles to drive within the Clean Air Zones. To tackle this, vehicles must meet a minimum standard expected to be Euro 6 for diesel cars and Euro 4 for Petrol cars. Like London ULEZ, Euro 6/VI vehicles must be exempted from any charges.
Lillian Greenwood, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: “It's clear that action on air quality is needed now”.
“Waiting for almost another decade for all parts of the UK to reach acceptable levels of air quality is a deeply disappointing prospect, and simply not good enough”
Clean Air Zones Wales
The Welsh Government has announced a series of measures aimed at tackling air pollution including the development of a clean air zone framework, alongside this framework the Welsh Government is also proposing to bring about improvements in air quality reporting by councils.
This will be supported by the creation of a National Air Quality Assessment and Monitoring Centre for Wales that was setup to advise local and national government on the extent of poor air quality and the effectiveness of current and future actions.
The Welsh Cabinet Secretary recently stated that: “The average levels of air pollution across Wales continue to improve but we must do more to ensure the overall improving trends continue across Wales and compliance is achieved in pollution hotspots”.
“The responses to our recent consultation on local air quality management were very supportive of our air quality proposals for Wales. This new guidance and our commitment to develop a clean air zone framework for Wales marks our determination to ensure clean local environments for the well-being of our future generations”.
Clean Air Zones Scotland
Scotland's recently published Programme for Government proposed the creation of four low emission zones, the first zone to be in place by 2018 in the city of Glasgow. This will result in all but the cleanest-engine vehicles being barred from the city centre.
This,however, won't start immediately, with buses being targeted first, with set quotas on their fleets and only the cleanest diesel engines to be allowed to enter the zone. Other cities that are set to follow Glasgow and have clean air zones in place by 2020 include Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.
Scotland’s Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf said:
“We can be proud of the progress we’ve made in tackling air pollution, but our biggest cities, like Glasgow, are determined to create the best possible environment for communities to flourish by improving air quality. I’m delighted that Glasgow is working to have their LEZ in place by the end of 2018”.
“We have pledged to work with local authorities to introduce low emission zones in Scotland’s four biggest cities by 2020 and this is a positive step towards that vision. This is a decision based on the scientific evidence which demonstrates the link between air pollution and ill health”.
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