MPs have called for the planned ban on new petrol and diesel cars to be brought forward.
A joint report from four parliamentary committees criticised the Governmentâ€™s lack of ambition in setting a target of 2040 for the ban on sales and urges it to speed up the plan.
The Improving Air Quality report also calls for vehicle manufacturers to contribute to a clean air fund and suggests that a national scrappage scheme could help accelerate the move from conventionally fuelled cars to alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs).
The report states: â€œWhilst we welcome the Governmentâ€™s commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, this target lacks sufficient ambition. It is too distant to produce a step-change in industry and local government planning, and falls far behind similar commitments from other countries.â€
Norway has set a target of selling only zero-emission vehicles by 2025, and the Netherlands has confirmed plans to prohibit diesel and petrol vehicles from 2030. India and China are also considering bans on conventional petrol and diesel vehicles and the Scottish Government has pledged to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans across Scotland by 2032.
Lack of support
Sales of diesel cars have fallen from 47 per cent in 2016 to 37.8 per cent in 2017 while petrol and AFV registrations have increased. However, the rise in AFVs has slowed recently, prompting concerns that not enough is being done to promote less-polluting options.
Air pollution is blamed for around 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and the report estimates it costs the countryâ€™s economy Â£20 billion annually.
The report states that while clean air zones (CAZ) which charge more polluting vehicles for access were effective in improving urban air quality there wasnâ€™t enough support for local authorities to introduce them, with current policy identifying them as a last resort to cutting pollution. It recommends councils should be able to receive Government support for implementing a CAZ without having to go to onerous lengths to demonstrate the inefficacy of other options.
It also suggests that a Government-backed scrappage scheme could help speed up the large-scale move from conventional cars to ultra-low emissions vehicles. But it emphasised that such a scheme would have to include provisions to support low-income drivers and small businesses and would have to be implemented alongside a campaign to encourage wider use of public transport.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that the industry was already working hard to cut its impact on air quality, pointing to manufacturersâ€™ individual scrappage schemes and their investment in developing cleaner cars.
However, Rosie Rogers, senior political adviser at Greenpeace said the industry mustnâ€™t be allowed to “shake off its responsibility” for the UKâ€™s air pollution problems.
She said: “It’s high time manufacturers felt the heat, and contributing to a clean air fund is a good start.”
Commenting on the report published today, RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said that more needed to be done in the long and short term to encourage the move to AFVs.
He said: “With the latest figures showing a drop in the number of electric cars being sold in the UK at the start of this year compared to 2017, now is the time to ask whether incentives such as the plug-in grant scheme are doing enough to change drivers’ buying habits.
“There is also a lot of work to be done to demonstrate that the country is ready for a new era of cleaner vehicles. While manufacturers have committed to selling many more hybrid and pure electric models, this needs to be backed by the right infrastructure.â€