A cross-party group of political leaders from across the country are calling for Government support to tackle air pollution. A report released by UK100, a network of local leaders, shows that towns and cities could see an economic return of £6.5billion with support from the Government to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.
14 Mayors and political leaders from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and the West of England Combined Authority have joined forces to call for the Government to support a network of 30 new and existing Clean Air Zones, where the most polluting vehicles are fined. The Royal College of Physicians has assessed that the costs attributed to health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution are more than £20billion per year. The group are urging the new Chancellor, Sajid Javid, to make an enhanced Clean Air Fund the centrepiece of a Spending Round in support of the NHS, which is due to be published on 4 September. A national network of up to 30 Clean Air Zones across England, including London, could be enhanced and unlocked if an additional £1.5billion is committed from Government and business to tackle air pollution in the most polluted towns and cities. This would bring together £1billion in the upcoming Spending Round alongside £500million from business contributions. This would allow Clean Air Zones to be introduced in all of the places the Government warns will have illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) by 2021. This includes towns and cities across the country such as Bristol, Coventry, Guildford, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Southampton. The initial results from the UK’s first Clean Air Zone are encouraging. A report into the impact of London’s ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) introduced in April this year shows that the numbers of older, polluting vehicles has reduced by over a quarter. Currently only six local authorities have plans to introduce such zones. For existing and upcoming zones such as in London and Birmingham, it would support enhanced Vehicle Renewal schemes to support residents and small businesses to switch to cleaner transport. A survey by Hitachi from earlier this year showed that a majority of the public are in favour of Clean Air Zones, with 50% supporting plans to charge motorists to enter a zone, while only 22% disagree. Under the UK100 plan, lower income residents and small businesses would be offered incentives of between £2,000 and £6,000 to either upgrade existing vehicles or get rid of their older, polluting vehicles and switch to a cleaner form of transport such as electric vehicles or public transport. As well as support for buying an ‘ultra low emissions’ vehicle, the cash could also be put toward car clubs, bike hire schemes or a public transport season ticket. The report calls for a partnership with industry to contribute to a national vehicle renewal scheme, similar to how car manufacturers have contributed to the German Government’s Sustainability Mobility Fund for cities. London has received commitment from third party organisations (e.g. car clubs) for additional funding to support its car scrappage scheme. Polly Billington, Director of UK100, a network of local leaders that campaigns on clean air, said: “Cleaning up the air in our towns and cities makes sound economic sense and this study demonstrates that. It will boost the health of our communities and save the NHS money. Sensible investment by national government is needed to support local authorities to take the most polluting vehicles off our roads while ensuring that the poorest in our towns and cities are not the hardest hit by pollution and measures to tackle it.” Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “Air pollution is a national health crisis which is responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths around the country and costs over £20 billion a year. I have taken bold action to tackle lethal air in the capital with the Ultra Low Emission Zone, the first of the UK’s Clean Air Zones, which is already having a positive impact on reducing harmful emissions. But cities including London cannot deliver further Clean Air Zones without urgent government funding. This funding must include a new national vehicle renewal scheme, which would help businesses and residents prepare for London’s ULEZ expansion in 2021. Everyone deserves the right to breathe clean air and the Chancellor simply cannot afford to delay immediate action on this invisible killer.” Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Greater Manchester is ready with our Clean Air Plan proposals to quickly tackle the huge problem of air pollution, which contributes to the equivalent of 1,200 deaths in our city-region each year. But Government has so far failed to commit enough funding to implement what would be the largest proposed Clean Air Zone outside London, covering 500 square miles and 2.8 million people. “And, crucially, it has not so far put forward any funding to help Greater Manchester bus and coach operators, taxi and private hire drivers and companies, businesses with HGVs and vans – which could be affected by our Clean Air Zone proposal – to retrofit their existing vehicles, or move to cleaner models, to avoid paying a daily penalty to drive within the zone. We don’t want businesses to pay – we want to help them switch to compliant vehicles. But we need much more support from the government to do this.”