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Cut traffic to cut pollution

Former campaigner's picture

As MPs investigate how to improve air quality, we’re making the case that tackling air pollution needs fewer cars, not just newer cars.  

Faced with a succession of legal challenges, our political leaders have to take air quality more seriously. The Government has delayed the Silvertown Tunnel over air quality concerns, and abandoned plans for a mega lorry park in Kent after a threatened judicial review on environmental grounds.

The Budget is widely expected to end the tax system’s love affair with diesel, and local councils are already taking measures against the most polluting vehicles on their streets.

A super-inquiry from four House of Commons Committees is investigating how to improve air quality. It’s a topic that’s attracted a lot of interest with over 150 submissions to the Inquiry, from individuals and organisations, including evidence from Campaign for Better Transport.

MPs are asking important questions about how joined up Government policies are when it comes to air pollution, what lessons can be learned from other countries and what support local authorities need to make a difference.

In our response, we set out three priorities:

A robust network of Clean Air Zones

Everyone has the right to clean air.

We repeat the calls made by our allies in the Healthy Air Campaign for national action to reduce air pollution and for local authorities to have the means and resources to take effective action on air pollution at a local level. Our Alternative Transport Budget calls for a Clean Air Fund to help.

The Government has made Clean Air Zones with an entry charge a policy of last resort not early action: we think that’s a mistake. Councils need to be empowered to use the most effective policies to give their communities air that is fit to breathe.

Budget measures

We’re facing a health crisis fuelled by diesel.

Past tax regimes have encouraged investment in diesel vehicles, and fuel duty has not kept up with rising public transport fares. That needs to change. We're calling for increased Vehicle Excise Duty on diesel purchases to help fund greener alternatives. 

In our Budget alternative, we set out positive ideas such as targeted scrappage schemes, expanding OLEV grants to include e-bikes, significantly increasing the green bus fund and other measures.

Road traffic reduction

Cutting traffic is the key way to cut pollution.

The Government should reallocate the record levels of spending for the strategic roads network into boosting the comparatively low levels of spending for walking, cycling and buses.  

Electric cars are part of the solution and certainly will help cleaning up tailpipe emissions: but that will still leave us breathing dangerous particulates from tyre and braking systems. We need fewer cars not just newer cars.

Giving motorists better choices, and pricing pollution more fairly, are vital.

Investing in making places better for walking and cycling is the best way to cut pollution and improve public health. Investing in greener buses makes sense, and they are much more space efficient in our crowded cities than cars.

How we move goods is important too. Shifting more freight from HGVs to rail is part of the solution: so is using ultra low emission vehicles, including electric vans and cargo bikes, for last mile deliveries.

We need a comprehensive strategy to invest in and incentivise the use of greener transport across the board, including aviation and shipping.  That’s an approach that will also help us meet the UK’s challenging CO2 obligations, stimulate the green economy and create healthy, liveable places.

By joining up transport policy with planning, health, environment and tax, we can help deliver the clean air that every community deserves.

MPs are asking the right questions. Let's hope they come up with the right answers.