The UK has received a final warning from the European Commission over air pollution breaches. A legal defeat in the High Court concluded the current plans to tackle UK air pollution were inadequate and therefore unlawful.
The persistent breaches of nitrogen dioxide levels, coming from a variety of sources, particularly diesel engines, has led to the Government backtracking on their previous encouragement to purchase diesel vehicles.
According to the European Commission, road traffic is responsible for around 40% of nitrogen oxide emissions in the EU, with around 80 per cent coming from diesel powered vehicles. With this final warning the Government is now obliged, morally and legally, to clean up Britain’s ‘unhealthy air’.
During Prime Minister’s questions Theresa May responded: “We now recognise that the Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has to look at the judgement made by the courts and we now have to look again at the proposals we will bring forward.”
Companies will be encouraged to switch to cleaner fleets of vehicles. Additionally, the Government has announced a further £290m to support electric vehicles and low emission buses, taxis and encourage the use of alternative fuels. Defra has also announced further plans to cut emissions by introducing ultra-low emission zones to take effect in 2020 including several cities: Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton.
This will lead to further pressure on an already strained transport industry but could also affect drivers of all diesel cars. We will wait to see the terms of further air quality plans due to be released shortly.