Green Party unveils 'checklist' of measures to tackle air pollution 'emergency'


Government plans to tackle illegal air pollution should include schemes to keep dirty diesels out of towns and fine car companies who cheated on emissions tests, the Green Party has urged.

With the draft air quality plans expected to be published on Friday, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas is unveiling a "checklist" of measures she said the strategy must contain.

These include a new Clean Air Act to tackle pollution, expanded clean air zones which limit the most polluting vehicles from entering pollution hotspots, increased vehicle excise duty on new diesel vehicles, and the introduction of a diesel scrappage scheme.

The checklist also calls for fines for car companies who cheated on emissions tests to make vehicles look cleaner than they actually were, ensure those firms provide free vehicle replacement or retrofits, and for investment in public transport, cycling and walking.

Ministers were ordered to draw up the new clean air plans following a court challenge by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, with the High Court ruling that existing government proposals to meet EU-mandated pollution limits were not sufficient.

The Environment Department (Defra) lost a last-minute High Court bid to delay revealing the draft plans to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from diesel vehicles, until after the General Election.

The plans are expected to announce a "targeted" diesel scrappage scheme, paying to scrap the oldest vehicles registered in areas where air pollution is already at dangerous levels, according to reports.

But the Conservatives will warn local authorities against implementing clean air zones with charges for the most polluting vehicles, as it would "punish" motorists who were previously encouraged to buy diesel cars.

Prime Minister Theresa May has previously indicated she will not punish drivers of old diesel cars to protect the environment, blaming previous Labour backing for the technology.

Ms Lucas said: "We've seen catastrophic failure on air pollution from a government trying its best to shirk its responsibilities.

"It's astonishing that today's plan had to be dragged out of the Government, as ministers tried their best to use the election as cover for their continuing refusal to take action.

"The Green Party's air pollution plan would tackle this emergency, and force car companies to pay their way for the damage they have done to people's health.

"Half measures are not good enough when 40,000 premature deaths are linked to air pollution every year, we need bold action now."

The Green Party also warned the cost of public transport had increased by 60% in the last few decades, while motoring costs had dropped 20%.