The UK Government has this morning announced a ban on diesel and petrol car sales from 2040, effectively kicking urgently needed action on air pollution into the long grass. The announcement came ahead of the publication of full plans to tackle the ongoing air pollution crisis, which are expected later today.
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% by 2032, and pledged to introduce one Low Emission Zone 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% 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.” 
So far, Scottish Government plans to tackle illegal air pollution include the introduction of just one Low Emission Zone by 2018. 
Hanna continued:
“Low Emission Zones, which restrict the most polluting vehicles from the most polluted places, are an effective way to improve air quality and phase out fossil fuelled vehicles in city centres. The Government is planning just one Low Emission Zone to be introduced next year, yet there are a total of 38 Pollution Zones across Scotland with dangerous levels of toxic air, spanning 14 local authorities. Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen Councils are all willing to introduce local Low Emission Zones, but the Scottish Government needs to urgently commit to funding the Zones, and must support all local authorities who are willing to tackle this health crisis. 
“Air pollution targets the most vulnerable in our society, with children, the elderly, and people with other health disabilities suffering disproportionately. Pollution has been linked with heart attacks, strokes, cancers, and even mothers giving birth to babies prematurely and with reduced birthweights. This is a social justice issue and the Scottish Government’s failure to act will cost hundreds of lives. 
“Traffic is the key cause of air pollution, so we need a cleaner and fairer transport system where walking, cycling, and using public transport are properly supported. In Scotland, this means creating more low emission zones, more funding support for walking and cycling, and fixing the mess of our bus services through introducing re-regulation.”

Notes to Editors

[1] The newly published air quality plans are expected to be published later today on https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-environment-food-rural-affairs. 
[2] Technical note on EU law and the new plans:
Scotland is split into 6 “zones” which are required to comply with air quality limits.
4 of these zones are breaking the European legal safety limit for the annual concentrations of Nitrogen Dioxide. These zones are: Glasgow Urban Area, Edinburgh Urban Area, Northeast Scotland (a region which encompasses Dundee and Aberdeen), and Central Scotland (which covers most of the central belt and Fife)
The legal safety limit should have been achieved in 2010 for Glasgow. The other three zones were granted a 5-year extension by Europe, so have been in breach since 2015. (See Art 13 and Annex XI Ambient Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC: http://bit.ly/2pcQ5rq)
European law required that if the deadline was missed, then air quality plans must have been produced to show how the Nitrogen Dioxide legal limit could be achieved as quickly as possible in order to protect public health.
Plans were produced in 2011 were deemed legally inadequate, and new plans were ordered by the Supreme Court in April 2015 following legal action by environmental lawyers at ClientEarth.
Revised plans were issued December 2015 (see http://bit.ly/1OXacQ2) but were yet again deemed illegal by the High Court in November 2016 due to still being insufficiently ambitious, following a subsequent legal action by ClientEarth (http://bit.ly/2ezKXsT).
Today’s announcement precedes fuller plans, which will include information on Scotland, and are expected to be released later today.
The High Court specifically stated that aiming for compliance by 2020 was underambitious and illegal.
Although the plans are coordinated by Defra, air quality is devolved the Scottish Government so it is therefore responsible for the Scottish inputs into the plans. 
[3] Health effects of air pollution:
Nitrogen Dioxide is a poisonous and toxic gas responsible for respiratory problems, and is emitted mainly by motor vehicles, so its presence indicates other harmful vehicle emissions such as Particulate Matter, which has been linked with heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.
Long term exposure to air pollution, even at levels lower than the legal limits, increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes: http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.f7412
Long term exposure to air pollution at levels lower than the legal limits, in pregnant mothers, can cause babies to be born with low birthweights: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(13)70192-9/abstract
Exposure to high levels of air pollution can reduce children’s lung function: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/laura-donnelly/11953613/Air-pollu…
Air pollution from fine particles (PM2.5) causes over 2000 deaths every year in Scotland: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil…
[4] Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups. www.foe-scotland.org.uk