Diesel cars could be banished as Britain ordered to cut air pollution – Telegraph.co.uk
However Edmund King of the AA warned that the 11 million motorists who were ‘misled’ into buying diesel cars during Gordon Brown’s ‘dash for diesel’ would feel betrayed.
“There have been confusing messages and the goal now seems to have changed from encouragement to the demonising of diesel,” said Mr King.
“This won’t just affect big polluting trucks, but taxi drivers and families with people-carriers as well. This could drive down the value of cars dramatically.
“We all want better air quality but knee-jerk reactions without considering the science will not help air quality, industry or drivers.”
In 2001, Mr Brown, the then chancellor, overhauled vehicle excise duty so that cars that emitted a higher level of carbon dioxide faced a higher level of vehicle excise duty.
The move prompted a profound shift towards diesel cars, which produce lower levels of carbon dioxide because they are about 20 per cent more efficient than petrol engines.
Over the past decade, the number of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has risen from 1.6 million to more than 11 million and accounts for a third of vehicles.
However Labour’s plan failed to take into account that diesel vehicles emit 10 times the fine particles and up to twice the nitrogen dioxide, which has been linked to 7,000 deaths each year.
On Wednesday Lord Carnwath sitting in London’s Supreme Court found that the UK had breached article 13 of the EU Air Quality Directive which demanded that nitrogen dioxide levels were cut to 40 micrograms of per cubic metre by 2010.
On present projections will not even fully hit the target by 2030, with London, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire predicted to be still over the healthy limit. Currently 38 out of 43 zones in the UK are in breach of the directive.
The UK is also facing similar proceedings in the European Court of Justice where it could be fined millions for not reducing pollution levels.
Caroline Russell, Green Party Local Transport Spokesperson said the government must take steps to prevent diesel vehicles entering towns.
“Diesel vehicles, even the latest Euro 6 standard, are polluting and dangerous to our health,” she said. “We must limit their use in towns and cities with ultra-low emission zones.”
But Richard Gane, director and transport sector specialist at supply chain company Vendigital, warned that phasing out diesel could have major implications for businesses.
“If the Government decides to fast forward its plans to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, this would add weight to the growing environmental lobby against diesel-engine vehicles and potentially could lead to them being phased out, perhaps via an incentivised scrappage scheme,” he said.
“For businesses that rely on regular road transport deliveries, any movement away from diesel engine vehicles would have significant supply chain implications.
“Businesses will be hoping that any plans be offset by incentives that will enable them to switch to greener models.”
The Department for the Environment said that it could not comment on changes for diesel owners because of the upcoming election. But it said the government was committed to revising plans by the end of the year and complying with EU limits ‘in the shortest possible time.’
The ruling was welcomed by the British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK and Friends of the Earth.
A spokesman for BMW, which manufactures the MINI brand at a plant in Oxfordshire, said: “As far as the ruling is concerned we do need to take a look at that.”
The MINI car plant in Oxforshire
“As for the future of the diesel engine, I think for quite some time it’s been clear that we’ve had a development strategy that is improving the efficiency of our petrol and diesel engines but also seeing the introduction of fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
“There’s a constant strive to remove tailpipe emission altogether. As far as a time frame for that is concerned I wouldn’t be so bold as to put one on that. But I would certainly point to the cars we’ve launched recently as steps in the right direction.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “Industry recognises the issues around air quality and is keen to see policy that reflects the progress made on vehicle emissions and wider challenges of CO2 reduction.”
“Policies to improve air quality should focus on encouraging the uptake of the latest low emission vehicles, while also addressing other sources such as electricity generation and heating, which between them account for more than half of NOx emitted in the UK.
“Today’s diesel engines are the cleanest ever, high tech filters capture 99% of particulates and NOx emissions are down 84% since 2000.”
A spokesman for the SMMT added: “We’re stressing that this isn’t just an issue with diesel engines. This is something that encompasses many other sectors as well.”
“When you look at the UK-wide figure, road transport accounts for 27 per cent of emissions while electricity generation is around 30 per cent. So there is that to bear in mind.”