More action needed on air pollution

Call for more action to tackle air pollution, despite Government ban on the sale of diesel and petrol cars.
Call for more action to tackle air pollution, despite Government ban on the sale of diesel and petrol cars.

Environmental groups and The Scottish Greens have called on the UK Government to do more to tackle air pollution.

The move follows an announcement by the UK Government this morning on its plans to ban diesel and petrol car sales from 2040.

The announcement comes ahead of the publication of full plans to tackle the ongoing air pollution crisis.

Air quality is a devolved issue and the Scottish Government is legally responsible for meeting the EU limits in Scotland and for the Scottish elements of these UK plans, including tackling illegal air pollution in Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Central belt and North East Scotland.

The Scottish Government has previously proposed a target to reduce sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 60 per cent by 2032, and pledged to introduce one low emission zones by 2018.

Reacting to the news, Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “Air pollution is a public health crisis which is killing thousands of people early every year, so a ban on sales of fossil fuelled vehicles in 23 years time is simply not good enough.

“Like the Scottish Government’s pledge to reduce sales of petrol and diesel cars and vans to 60 per cent by 2032, today’s announcement is kicking urgently needed action into the long grass. Air pollution is a national disgrace in Scotland, and so far, the Scottish Government has shown a remarkable disregard for public health by its highly unambitious plans.

“We urge the Scottish Government to show its commitment to tackling both the air pollution and the climate crises by using the Climate Bill to phase out fossil fuelled cars by 2030 at the very latest.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Greens are calling on the Scottish Government to spell out what it will do to tackle pollution over the next two decades.

While the Greens have welcomed the move, the party’s transport spokesperson John Finnie said the Scottish Government should not go at Westminster’s pace on tackling pollution and improving health and instead show “real vision” for a “carbon free future”.

John Finnie, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “A ban by 2040 is welcome, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough or fast enough and it’s a shame the UK government has decided to go at the same pace as France and others rather than taking a lead.

“Nevertheless, fumes from cars and lorries are ending thousands of lives prematurely each year, and it’s therefore encouraging that the UK government is finally moving to protect people’s health and boost a key green industry.

“The focus will now be on the Scottish Government who must decide if they will allow Westminster to set the pace, or if they are to be bold and show real vision for a carbon free future. It’s not enough to say they’ll take care of pollution and people’s health in 23 years’ time, we need ministers and councils to put plans in place now to tackle engine idling and improve car sharing. Introducing a 20 mph default speed limit in urban areas is one way the Scottish Government can prove its willingness to act.”

Commenting on the publication of the UK government’s clean air strategy, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “No-one should be in any doubt about the Scottish Government’s determination to improve air quality and fight climate change.

“We want to achieve a dramatic increase in the percentage of ultra-low emission cars and vans on Scotland’s roads and it is encouraging to see the UK Government follow our lead.

“Our Cleaner Air for Scotland strategy sets out how we plan to ensure Scotland’s air quality is the best in Europe and work is already well underway to deliver Scotland’s first low emissions zone.

“Officials are studying the detail of the UK Government’s plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars and, crucially, what they mean for Scotland.”

She added: “We are determined to ensure Scotland continues to set an example for the rest of the UK and countries across Europe and around the world to follow.”