An early draft version of a government whitepaper for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has mentioned the possibility that local authorities could provide incentives and benefits for the use of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), such as preferential parking and delivery bays or access, lower parking fees, and allowing access to bus lanes, plus exemptions from other restrictions.
It was also suggested in the whitepaper that companies could be advised to join recognition schemes, such as the Go Ultra Low Company status, ECO Stars, LCRS (Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme), and FORS (Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme) to demonstrate their green credentials.
Published on 5th May 2017, the draft whitepaper sets out expected approach to be taken by local authorities when creating and managing Clean Air Zones in England to help improve air quality in the UK. Following a consultation period regarding these suggestions, a final version of the whitepaper is due to be published on 31st July 2017.
The whitepaper states: "Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK and investing in cleaner air and doing even more to tackle air pollution are priorities for the UK government. The government has set a clear long-term ambition for all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2040, and for nearly every car and van to be zero emission by 2050. Local authorities and others should aim to deliver the best possible long-term outcomes."
Clean Air Zones are one measure the government seems keen to implement. The whitepaper defines a Clean Air Zone as "an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality and resources are prioritised and coordinated in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth".
The whitepaper sets the minimum standard for vehicles to avoid a charge for entering Clean Air Zones as Euro 6 for diesel vans and Euro 4 for petrol-engined vehicles, while ULEVs with a "significant zero-emission range" will be free to travel through a Clean Air Zone". The Office for Low Emission Vehicles currently considers ULEVs to be new cars or vans that emit fewer than 75 grams of CO2 from the tailpipe per kilometre driven.
At the time of writing, details of the fees to be charged are due to be published "at a later date". They are said to be likely to be influenced by the London Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) scheduled to come into force in September 2020 which will charge drivers of non-compliant vehicles £12.50 in addition to the daily £11.50 Congestion Charge. Although Clean Air Zone proposals "are not required to include a charging zone", it remains to be seen how local authorities will fund them.
framework suggests that local authorities procuring vehicles to be driven inside Clean Air Zones must see that such vehicles adhere to to the minimum standards,
while also encouraging
employees to reduce their negative impact on local air quality.
Gary Rae, Campaigns Director for road safety charity Brake, criticised the Government for placing much of the responsibility on local councils, saying: "It appears the Government has abdicated responsibility for reducing air pollution to local authorities. If any issue needs tackling on a national - and international - level, it's this one. We have a national health emergency, and the Government is kicking the issue into the long grass.”
SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: "SMMT welcomes the publication of government's proposals for improving air quality across the UK, which clearly states that the new Euro 6 diesels which have been on sale for the past two years will not face any penalty charges anywhere in the UK."