England’s air and water is 96% polluted in “sensitive habitats” across all cities, a parliamentary committee report has found, outlining plans for local authorities to be given more powers to combat the crisis.
The worst polluting vehicles entering towns and cities, including London, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton will be charged, in a bid to address poor air quality.
By creating these tax zones, the most polluting vehicles, including old diesel buses, taxis, coaches and lorries, will be discouraged from entering city centres.
If the strategy works, the Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee said, it could be rolled out across the country.
According to the Efra report, some 40-50,000 deaths are caused each year from diseases linked to air pollution.
In light of the Volkswagen emissions-rigging scandal, the Efra committee is keen to make sure that that marketing claims made by companies are fully accurate.
The German car manufacturer has set aside €16.2bn to pay for its cheating after admitting last year that it had installed secret software to cheat US emissions tests.
The economic impacts of pollution are great and that includes the effect on agriculture
For example, ground level ozone produced by nitrogen oxides, pumped out by diesel motors, reacting with other atmospheric pollutants, lowers crop yields at an estimated annual cost to UK farmers of £180 million.
Regulations on clean air control are yet to be fully agreed but it has been proposed that new diesel models will initially be allowed to emit up to 2.1 x more nitrogen oxide than current testing limits.
This, the report states, is to allow a margin of error in testing equipment and to allow industry to reduce emissions “economically”.