A ban on diesel vehicles, an overhaul of Vehicle Excise Duty and a national network of clean air zones could be the result of the government being told to compile a tough new plan to improve air quality.
The demands for action followed environmental campaign group ClientEarth’s High Court victory against the government over its failure to tackle air pollution across the UK.
In a damning indictment of ministers’ inaction on “killer air pollution”, Mr Justice Garnham agreed with ClientEarth that the Environment Secretary had failed to take measures that would bring the UK into compliance with the law “as soon as possible” and said that ministers knew that over optimistic pollution modelling was being used.
In April 2015, ClientEarth won a Supreme Court ruling against the government which ordered ministers to come up with a plan to bring air pollution down within legal limits as soon as possible. Those plans included Clean Air Zones in five cities – Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton – in addition to London and a focus on encouraging the adoption by fleets and private motorists of ultra-low emission vehicles.
However, those plans were claimed to be so poor that ClientEarth took the government back to the High Court in a Judicial Review. Now the government must compile a new plan and take it to the High Court for approval.
Campaigners have demanded a range of measures including: a national network of clean air zones to be in place by 2018 in cities across the UK, that could see entry charges imposed particularly on diesel cars; the “phasing out of diesel” vehicles; a diesel scrappage scheme to help remove the worst polluting vehicles from the UK’s roads; a national diesel scrappage scheme to take the most polluting vehicles off the roads; and an overhaul of Vehicle Excise Duty to incentivise the buying of the cleanest vehicles.