The Royal College of Physicians has assessed that the costs attributed to health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution are more than £20bn per year. The group are urging the new Chancellor, Sajid Javid to make an enhanced Clean Air Fund the centrepiece of a Spending Round in support of the NHS, which is due to be published on 4 September.
With air pollution contributing to up to 36,000 deaths a year, the research shows that adequately funding existing Clean Air Zones and introducing new ones, which would charge the most polluting vehicles to enter towns and cities, could provide a boost to our health and the economy.
A national network of up to 30 Clean Air Zones across England, including London, could be enhanced and unlocked if an additional £1.5bn is committed from Government and business to tackle air pollution in the most polluted towns and cities. This would bring together £1bn in the upcoming Spending Round alongside £500m from business contributions. This would allow Clean Air Zones to be introduced in all of the places the Government warns will have illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) by 2021. This includes towns and cities across the country such as Bristol, Coventry, Guildford, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Southampton.
The initial results from the UK’s first Clean Air Zone are encouraging. A report into the impact of London’s ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) introduced in April this year shows that the numbers of older, polluting vehicles has reduced by over a quarter.
Currently only six local authorities have plans to introduce such zones. For existing and upcoming zones such as in London and Birmingham, it would support enhanced Vehicle Renewal schemes to support residents and small businesses to switch to cleaner transport.
A survey by Hitachi from earlier this year showed that a majority of the public are in favour of Clean Air Zones, with 50% supporting plans to charge motorists to enter a zone, while only 22% disagree.
Under the UK100 plan, lower income residents and small businesses would be offered incentives of between £2,000 and £6,000 to either upgrade existing vehicles or get rid of their older, polluting vehicles and switch to a cleaner form of transport such as electric vehicles or public transport. As well as support for buying an ‘ultra low emissions’ vehicle, the cash could also be put toward car clubs, bike hire schemes or a public transport season ticket.
The report calls for a partnership with industry to contribute to a national vehicle renewal scheme, similar to how car manufacturers have contributed to the German Government’s Sustainability Mobility Fund for cities. London has received commitment from third party organisations (e.g. car clubs) for additional funding to support its car scrappage scheme