Following a legal case brought by Client Earth, which the Government lost, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs has released a draft of its Air Quality Plan. But the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has revealed concerns.
More stringent measures are needed to reduce harmful pollutants says Matthew Trevaskis, Head of Electric Vehicles at the REA. This can help the UK place itself in a strong position to capture the industrial benefits of a global shift in transport systems.
“This plan is disappointing,” he said. “It essentially represents a roundup of existing policies and lays out woolly language around how local authorities should encourage better behaviour, such as Clean Air Zones. The terms need to be beefed-up, rather than simply allowing local authorities to charge polluting vehicles in urban areas they should be allowed to ban them if pollution rates are too high.
Trevaskis noted the benefit of providing industrial rewards. “A strong plan is urgently needed to address the significant public health issue of pollution, and to make sure the UK is on the front-foot to reap the industrial rewards from what is a rapidly evolving global transport system.
“If we are to remain competitive with our European peers in low-emission and electric transport in the coming decade we need a more ambitious target than 2040 for all new light vehicles to be zero emission. Germany is aiming to do this by 2030, which is achievable for the UK, and other nations by 2025.”
Trevaskis also wanted more to be done to encourage the take up of electric vehicles through emphasis on charging point infrastructure. “Encouraging significant domestic take-up of electric vehicles will take more than the Highways England plan to ensure a charge point in around every 20 miles. We would much rather see strategic clusters of rapid charge points even if spaced further apart, to ensure access without queuing and sited with other amenities.”
The REA was however pleased with the plan’s focus broadening to include vehicles other than passenger cars. “It’s critical that any strategy takes into account emissions from commercial and fleet vehicles, and this plan identifies their significant contribution,” added Trevaskis.