Government's clean air plan announced - but expected scrappage scheme still under consultation

Motorway

The plan's technical report mentions that a new diesel scrappage scheme targeting roughly 10 million pre-Euro 6 cars and vans will cost at least £60 billion.

Proposals in a long awaited consultation paper from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) make no commitment to an anticipated "scrappage" scheme to get the most polluting vehicles, including older diesels, off United Kingdom roads. "Where local authorities decide it is appropriate, charging polluting vehicles to enter city centres would apply the sound conservative principle of internalising negative externalities". This is produced from diesel engines and is also linked with respiratory diseases including asthma.

The draft whitepaper focuses on Clean Air Zones, something Defra has been mooting for a while.

With the government handing over the responsibility for clean air zones onto local authorities, there's no set framework as of yet.

The government breaks down clean air zones into two categories in the plan: non-charging clean air zones and charging clean air zones.

"This includes considering all equally effective alternatives to charging zones".

It does not include a predicted diesel scrappage scheme as a proposal, although such a scheme remains a possibility.

If you've got an old diesel and were hoping for a discounted upgrade, I'm afraid it's bad news for the moment.

But a scheme "would need to provide value for money" and "have to be targeted at those most in need of support", they added.

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In addition, the plan outlines new funding to relieve road congestion, first announced previous year, and extra funding for hydrogen vehicle infrastucture and uptake of hydrogen vehicles.

So, it would appear that the government is keener to reduce pollution by other means rather than scrapping diesels, or even discouraging them. Local councils have instead been encouraged to explore the "appropriate tax treatment" for the vehicles over the next 12 months.

However, critics are already pointing out that the draft doesn't go far enough.

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, said: "The government is standing idly by while Britain chokes".

He said: "We need a legally enforceable right to clean air for everybody and new powers to regulate all emissions sources, including construction and river vessels".

It also said central funding for local measures like redesigning roads and improving infrastructure for walking, cycling and electric vehicles could be an option, as well as reductions to motorway speed limits and expansions to clean air zones.

The criticism comes as the new plan reveals up to seven local authorities in Yorkshire could be asked to take action to address poor air quality in their area, including in Doncaster, Bradford and Wakefield. "The draft plan sets out proposed actions to meet air quality standards within the shortest possible time", the statement said.

"A clear timeframe of implementation for clean air zones and new policies must be published to ensure businesses and consumers are aware of the changes and able to plan their investments, especially considering that many motorists were previously encouraged to purchase diesel vehicles".

Managing director Jeremy Hicks said its latest Euro 6 diesel engines were "among the cleanest in the world, with Carbon dioxide emissions around 20% lower than equivalent petrol engines".

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