With the UK’s Government’s new Clean Air Strategy expected soon, the Campaign for Better Transport has published a new report on reducing air pollution from transport. The report, co-authored by TEPR’s Ian Skinner, makes recommendations for national and local action.

According to the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health, urban air pollution is responsible for more than 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year with the most vulnerable groups being the young, elderly and those suffering with long-term illnesses.

37 out of 43 air quality zones do not comply with legal requirements for air quality

The UK has been in breach of air quality standards, effectively EU standards, in many of its air quality zones since 2010. Last year, figures from the UK Government showed that 37 of the UK’s 43 air quality zones are not in compliance with legal requirements for air quality. The UK is now subject to legal action from the European Commission for not complying with the standards and is also subject to legal judgements in the UK for not having a sufficiently robust response. The government’s 2017 draft plan for tackling roadside NO2 concentrations requires non-compliant local authorities to develop plans to reduce emissions during the course of 2018.

Leaving the EU – will the UK continue to apply the EU’s air quality limit values?

So how will Brexit affect the UK’s compliance? Even after Brexit, it is still likely that the UK will continue to apply the EU’s air quality limit values and the Euro emission standards for vehicles. Weakening the former, and introducing a parallel scheme to the latter, would be politically difficult and would incur unnecessary administrative and implementation costs. Furthermore, the Government has promised that Brexit will not weaken environmental standards, so action is needed.

How can air pollution be reduced?

The main contributors to roadside NOx emissions and hence NO2 pollution are local road transport and diesel cars, vans, HGVs and buses. 60% of roadside NO2 emissions comes from local road traffic, most of which is from diesel vehicles. Local authorities must work together with bus operators, taxi operators, local hauliers and the public to end the use of more polluting vehicles in urban areas, which tend to be older diesel vehicles.

Potential actions include:

  • Making agreements with bus operators to use less polluting vehicles
  • Retiring or retrofitting older buses
  • Introducing electric or hybrid buses
  • Facilitating and promoting the use of cycling, including electric bicycles
  • Consolidating local freight deliveries, and using electric vans or cargobikes for these
  • Integrating environmental conditions into taxi licencing agreements
  • Reflecting the emissions of cars in local parking changes and permits
  • Improving the infrastructure and conditions for public transport, cycling and walking
  • Promoting and supporting the development of car clubs

National government should consider supporting targeted local scrappage schemes and continue to ensure that the taxation system supports the purchase and use of cleaner vehicles.

Potential benefits

Taking action to reduce air pollution will see the benefits gained far outstrip the costs for reducing emissions. Estimates put the cost of air pollution to the economy at over £2.7 billion each year.

The report and further information

More information, and the report itself, can be found on CBT’s website. The report can also be downloaded from TEPR’s website. TEPR works with Local Authorities, EU Institutions, NGOs, National Governments, Industry and international clients. If you would like to talk to us about making transport more sustainable in the future, call TEPR today on +44 (0)7521 063324 or email


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