The development of EVs is welcome, and they offer some solutions in terms of reducing road transport emissions of carbon dioxide (a global warming gas) and nitrogen oxides. However, according to one scientific study, EVs release around the same amount of Particulate Matter (PM2.5) into the atmosphere as combustion engines, through tyre wear and the fact that they are generally heavier. Added to this, for EVs to be truly ‘green’ they need to be charged using 100% renewable electricity; in 2017 renewables made up about 33% of power generation. Simply replacing the diesel/petrol fleet with EVs will also do little to reduce congestion, and will not make streets safer and more pleasant for walking and cycling.
Air pollution and climate change
As well as all the nasty toxic gases like NO2 which are released when we burn petrol or diesel as fuel in vehicles, carbon dioxide (CO2) is also released. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Transport accounts for 33% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions. Emissions from this sector have not been falling as fast as in other sectors of the economy. This is partly due to the large number of cars on the road and the embedded emissions in the production of the car itself.
Wood burning stoves
In recent years, wood burning has made a comeback as a method of heating homes, having largely disappeared when new regulations under the Clean Air Act came in during the 1960s. Wood burning has been promoted as carbon neutral because the same amount of C02 released from burning the fuel is absorbed by living trees. However, according to DEFRA, open fires and wood burning stoves have a significant impact on local air pollution and are many times more polluting than a gas boiler in terms of particulate emissions which can enter every organ through the lung and blood stream.
The government is concerned about the issue and is considering tougher rules in solid fuel burning in the next few years.
If you have a stove, try to limit the number of times a year you use it and always burn dry wood instead of wet. DEFRA-approved (and especially newer Ecodesign-ready) stoves release much less PM.
Idling (and ice cream vans)
Mums for Lungs thinks idling is a frustrating and unnecessary source of pollution, especially outside the school gates. It wastes fuel and money, as well as releasing even more toxic emissions into the air for us all to breathe. We would like to see more power and resources given to local authorities to tackle idling through street patrols and fines. Idling is an issue which can open everyone's eyes to the damage being done by all our fossil fuel powered vehicles. Additionally, we would like to see more serious action from the government to reduce the number of car journeys made, especially short distances.
We also welcome initiatives to support the roll-out of electric-powered ice cream vans which don’t need to leave a diesel engine running.
In the early 2000s, diesel was promoted as a cleaner fuel which released less CO2. We realise that many drivers bought diesel cars in good faith hoping to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. We would like to see serious efforts from the government (Ie. money) to encourage drivers to make the shift away from petrol and diesel. We would welcome the introduction of a properly-resourced diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers to choose less polluting vehicles and think about alternatives such as public transport and the occasional taxi ride. Most importantly serious effort needs to be put into making walking and cycling easier for everyone.
Claims that the ULEZ in London negatively affects poor families
It has been claimed that the introduction of the ULEZ charge in April 2019 disproportionately affects the poor. This claim is based on an assumption that poorer families are more likely to own an older car. In fact 40% of Londoners don’t own any car at all. In fact poor Londoners are bearing the brunt of air pollution; the most deprived people are on average exposed to nearly a quarter more nitrogen dioxide pollution than the least deprived.
Driving has consequences. The cost of driving is already been paid somewhere else in the economy because the negative externalities of driving have not been properly accounted for. For example the NHS is treating some 40,000 Londoners who will die prematurely because of air pollution. A Global Action Plan report found that the average cost to the NHS is over £16,000 per diesel car.
The question is not whether to have a ULEZ, rather it is how to create a socially just ULEZ. We need a properly funded diesel scrappage scheme to help poorer families make the switch to cleaner transport and we urgently need Government to invest in public transport. We support the roll-out of an extended ULEZ to cover all of London up to the north and south circular roads. We believe that alternaitve proposals such as switching to electric buses are unlikely to have the same level of impact in reducing air pollution.
Phase out of diesel and petrol engines by 2030
The government has already set out plans to phase out new petrol and diesel engines by 2040. We believe this can be done more quickly. We know the necessary science exists and countries such as France, Norway and India have already committed to phasing out these combustion enginges by 2030 at the latest. Political will is lacking. This generation of children will be in their early 20s by the time the government’s current targets are met - they cannot simply be written off. We are calling on the government to meet this goal by 2030 at the latest.