UK war against air pollution: Theresa May’s government fails to clear the air

The MPs from across the political spectrum unite to present a report criticizing the British government led by Theresa May for failing to cope with the level of air pollution in the country, which have been attributed to the equivalent of around 40,000 premature deaths across the country each year.

Four Select Committees – The Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA), Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, and Transport Committees – published a joint report into improving the UK’s air quality.

The MPs are dissatisfied with the fact that the May’s government is showing no confidence in tackling the illegal levels of  air pollution, which costs UK taxpayers 20 billion pounds (about $ 28 billion) per year.

“The Government must set out its regulatory course, including whether to adopt World Health Organization air quality guidelines for all air pollutants, including sulphur dioxide, particulate matter and ozone, and not just nitrogen dioxide,” the committees said.

Responsing to the statement of the deputies, May’s Cabinet said that the UK achieved a sharp decline in emissions of air pollutants in 2016. In many respects, this happened thanks to the closure of some coal-fired power plants or their conversion to biodiesel.

Deputies, however, said the situation has worsened compared to 2016 and blamed the current government for inefficiency and called for evidence on pollution from other sources such as wood stoves and smokeless fuel.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders siad that a clear air fund worth £220m had already been set up by government, paid for by changes to vehicle taxation.

In 2017, the vehicle exercise duty (VED) – commonly known as car tax – was changed to be based on the amount of CO2 emissions a vehicle produces. From April 1 2018, cars with diesel engines that release excessive amounts of carbon dioxide to the environment will have to pay an additional tax, which vary from £15 to £500 and will be charged only in the first year after the purchase and registration of new vehicle.

“In addition, vehicle manufacturers are funding scrappage schemes to get the older vehicles off the road,” Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “Other sectors must also play their part in improving air quality.”

Despite the assurances of automakers that new auto models coming on to the market generate on average about 12% less emissions compared with older versions, there is still an 0.8% increase in CO2 emissions in the average amount of C02 generated per new car. This may happen due to the increase in the fuel efficiency of the new cars.

Overall, the UK diesel car market declined by 17% in 2017, after 5 years of record growth – but new car market still third biggest in a decade at over 2.5 million vehicles.

Members of influential Commons committees are calling for sales of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles  to be phased out earlier than 2040, the date set by the government for all new cars to be electric or hybrid.

The report noted the Scottish government planned phase-out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans across Scotland by 2032, eight years ahead of the UK Government target. Several cities in continental Europe are bringing in bans on diesel vehicles by 2025.

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