New figures linking 50,000 early deaths to air pollution, costing £27.5 billion each year, have prompted London Mayor Sadiq Khan to suggest diesel drivers should receive credit toward alternative transport. Citing excise duty as a form of subsidy for the polluting cars, Mr. Khan has outlined plans to offer £3,500 to diesel owners to switch to petrol, while low-income households could receive up to £2000 for transport costs.
The low-CO2, high-emissions vehicles have come in for a blasting from environmentalist and health groups, who claim that the focus on reducing climate change with diesel has exchanged one problem for another. Diesel engines emit nitrogen oxide filled with ‘particulates’ of soot- a highly dangerous, easily-absorbed form of pollution linked to cancer and other severe health issues.
The mayor has previously been forced to take to twitter to warn vulnerable people against going outside due to the toxic conditions- yet also recommends people walk or cycle if possible.
Earlier this year it took Brixton just 5 days to exceed its yearly pollution limit under EU law- a heavy blow to the government’s environmental credentials. The breach of EU laws regarding conservation, water and air quality have led to concerns that the low-regulation post-Brexit Britain promised by Theresa May might be heading for environmental disaster. Green Party campaigners have already cited over 1,000 EU environmental laws at risk from Brexit, without any guarantee these will transpose into a post-EU UK in the face of demands for increased competitiveness.
While London has been the focus of environmental concerns in recent months, Yorkshire has also been cited as one of the worst offenders. Hull & East Yorkshire were among areas issued with air pollution warnings in January, while in 2016 Leeds, York, Hull and Middlesborough were identified on a World Health Organisation list of cities in breach of air quality limits. Cold weather is linked to worse pollution and 23rd January saw DEFRA issue warnings over air quality in several parts of the UK, including Yorkshire.