ILLEGAL levels of air pollution should be tackled by keeping diesel vehicles out of towns and imposing fines on car companies that cheat in emissions tests, the Green Party urged yesterday.
Ahead of the expected publication of the government’s draft air-quality plans today, co-leader Caroline Lucas unveiled a “checklist” of measures that she said the strategy must contain.
The suggestions include a new clean air Act to tackle pollution, expanded clean air zones which bar 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 to be imposed on car companies that cheated on emissions tests to make vehicles look cleaner than they actually were, measures to ensure those firms provide free vehicle replacement or retrofits, and investment in public transport, cycling and walking.
The Greens also warned that the cost of public transport had increased by 60 per cent in the last few decades, while motoring costs had dropped 20 per cent.
Ministers were ordered to draw up the plans following a High Court challenge this week by environmental campaign group ClientEarth.
The court ruled that existing government proposals to meet EU-mandated pollution limits were insufficient.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) was told by the High Court that it could not delay publication of its draft plans to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide until after the general election.
The Conservatives have indicated they will warn councils against implementing clean air zones with charges for the most polluting vehicles, as they would “punish” motorists who had been encouraged to buy diesel cars.
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.”