The UK government today published a draft consultation plan to improve air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide (NOx) levels in the UK’s urban areas. 

It said the options now open for consultation on reducing nitrogen dioxide in UK towns and cities are ‘designed to reduce the impact of diesel vehicles, and accelerate the move to cleaner transport’. The focus is on local authority initiatives and geo-fenced low emission zones where vehicle usage by engine type (and emissions impact) can be regulated with a a range of policies as well as financial incentives and disincentives impacting road users.

The plan comes with a range of proposal outlines for reducing diesel vehicle use and encouraging the use and purchase of low emission vehicles. Despite speculation of a scrappage scheme for older diesels, the proposals do not explicitly include mention of that. However, they do say that penalties are not envisaged for newer diesel engine equippped vehicles.

In a response, the SMMT noted that the proposals do not envisage penalties on Euro 6 standard diesel engines.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “SMMT welcomes the publication of government’s proposals for improving air quality across the UK, which clearly states that the new Euro 6 diesels which have been on sale for the past two years will not face any penalty charges anywhere in the UK. Furthermore, the government is keen that local authorities avoid charging consumers and businesses for driving their vehicles if other more effective policies can be found.

“Industry is committed to improving air quality across our towns and cities and has spent billions developing new low emission cars, vans, trucks and buses and getting these new cleaner vehicles onto our roads quickly is part of the solution. As outlined in the plan, any proposed scrappage scheme would need to be targeted and deliver clear environmental benefits. We’re encouraged that plans to improve traffic flow and congestion, as well as increase uptake of electric and hybrid vehicles, will be prioritised in towns and cities. We look forward to working with government to encourage the uptake of the latest, low emission vehicles, regardless of fuel type.”

The consultation said that local authorities are already responsible for improving air quality in their area, ‘but will now be expected to develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, while avoiding undue impact on the motorist’.

The government is consulting on a range of measures that could be taken to mitigate the impact of action to improve air quality.

The consultation will run until 15 June.