The UK Government has today published its latest plans to tackle the ongoing air pollution crisis, including a ban of diesel and petrol car sales from 2040.
Air quality is a devolved issue, and as part of the UK-wide plans the Scottish Government has set out its proposals to tackle illegal pollution in Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Central belt and North East Scotland. Friends of the Earth Scotland have criticised the proposals for failing to go far enough.
Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said:
“The plans published today show that the Scottish Government continues to fall far short of what is needed to respond to the air pollution crisis.  There are 38 Pollution Zones in Scotland and toxic air causes over 2500 early deaths each year. Air quality is devolved, so the buck stops with Scottish Ministers to tackle pollution here.
“The Scottish Government has today failed to announce any new measures to tackle toxic air pollution without delay. In spite of a court ruling last year which demanded improved plans, Ministers are serving up practically the same old proposals, which simply don’t go far enough. This continued foot-dragging and time wasting will cost thousands of lives.
“In the updated plans the Scottish Government has reaffirmed its commitment to introduce only one Low Emission Zone next year, but failed to detail how the Zone will be funded and where it will be. One Low Emission Zone is simply not enough, because there are 14 Councils with unsafe levels of toxic air.  For the many people whose lives are impacted by dirty air on a daily basis this lack of ambition is unacceptable.
“It is not fair that air pollution impacts disproportionately on those who are least responsible for causing the problem, including children, the elderly, and people living in poverty. Pollution has been linked with heart attacks, strokes, cancers, and even mothers giving birth to babies prematurely and with reduced birthweights.
“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 for walking and cycling, and fixing the mess of our bus services through re-regulation.”
Reacting to today’s earlier announcement of a proposed UK-wide phase out of diesel and petrol vehicle sales:
“The air pollution crisis requires action now, 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.
“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.”

Notes to Editors

[1] Friends of the Earth Scotland reacted earlier today to the announcement of a phase out of sales of fossil fuelled vehicles by 2040: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/2040-phase-out
[2] The newly published air quality plans can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil…. The Scottish input is at page 44, from paragraph 141. It barely differs from the earlier 2015 plan which was deemed illegal, with the only difference being that the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government commits to establishing Scotland’s first Low Emission Zone by 2018 with a consultation about the zone to be launched at the end of August 2017. The previous plan can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1ZfEN2P, from page 15 (paragraphs 57- 61).
[3] 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).
– The High Court specifically stated that aiming for compliance by 2020 was underambitious and illegal.
– Today’s plans should have shown a greater level of ambition than the 2015 plans to tackle harmful pollution but Scotland’s input is almost identical to the 2015 plans, with the only difference being that it includes a commitment to introduce Scotland’s first LEZ by 2018. Scotland’s input also states that the National Low Emissions Framework will be consulted on later this year, which is over a year behind what was originally promised.
– 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. The Scottish input includes information on Cleaner Air for Scotland as well as the four plans relating to Glasgow Urban Area, Edinburgh Urban Area, Northeast Scotland and Central Scotland.
[4] 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-pollution-stunting-childrens-lungs-study-finds.html
– 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/file/332854/PHE_CRCE_010.pdf
[5] 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