As part of its consultation on the “clean air zones” to be introduced in a number of cities in the UK — Leeds, Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, and Southampton — the UK’s environment department has recommended that local authorities give electric vehicle drivers priority at traffic lights and access to bus lanes, amongst other things.
In conjunction with the launch of the clean air zones consultation, the environment department noted that strong actions were needed since air pollution killed around 50,000 people in the UK every year — making for an annual cost to society of around £27.5 billion.
As a reminder, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in many of the UK’s cities are currently in breach of European Union limits. As the Volkswagen diesel emission cheating scandal revealed — probably to the surprise of very few who have lived in regions where diesel cars are common — diesel cars are responsible for much higher air pollution emissions than officially “thought.” A rapid embrace of electric vehicles (EVs) could do quite a lot to reduce levels of various forms of dangerous air pollution in the UK.
The Guardian provides more, noting that effective incentives for EV adoption “could include cheaper parking and ‘allowing access to bus lanes, exemptions from other restrictions such as one way systems, and priority at traffic lights for Ulevs (ultra low-emission vehicles).’ But local authorities will be encouraged to consult with residents on such ideas first, an environment department spokeswoman said. The government said it wants each city to have a mandatory charge by 2020 for dirty buses, coaches, taxis and lorries, but not private cars. Birmingham and Leeds will tackle older vans too.”
Continuing: “Next week the environment secretary, Andrea Leadsom, faces a legal challenge from environmental law group ClientEarth in the high court over the government’s NO2 clean-up plans. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, this week called the capital’s toxic air a ‘health emergency’ as he launched proposals for a bigger and earlier clean air zone than the one planned by his predecessor, Boris Johnson. Unlike the other schemes, London’s does cover cars. The details and workings of the zones in the five other cities, chosen by the government last December because of their NO2 levels, will be published next year.”
Commenting on the Department for Transport’s very recent announcement of £35 million in new funding for EV charging points for taxi ranks and for workplaces, as well as for electric scooter uptake support, a lawyer for ClientEarth by the name of Alan Andrews stated: “While any government action on pollution is welcome, it’s no coincidence that it comes just five days before ClientEarth returns to court because of the government’s inaction on this public health crisis. Requiring just five cities in the UK to introduce clean air zones doesn’t solve a national problem which causes thousands of premature deaths. Other local authorities won’t introduce voluntary clean air zones unless they are made to, or paid to.”
The UK’s environment department of course responded that local authorities are welcome to introduce clean air zones as they wish to.