Northern regions ‘breaching air quality limits by 150%’

Some regional cities in the UK are in breach of legal limits on air quality by up to 150%. That’s according to a new report, which is calling on the […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

Some regional cities in the UK are in breach of legal limits on air quality by up to 150%.

That’s according to a new report, which is calling on the government to do more to address the crisis of toxic fumes from vehicles, “killing thousands” of people.

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North claims “killer fumes” are blighting regional cities, especially in the North of England – all but two of the 11 UK air quality reporting zones in the North are said to exceed legal limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Its report, which explores the North of England’s future transport energy needs, adds Teesside and the North West & Merseyside zones are the third and fourth regions in the UK with the filthiest air.

It suggests the regions are breaching the legal limit of toxic NO2 concentrations by 150%.

The think tank adds current trends estimate congestion in the North will increase by 3% annually but cautions that even by 2030, on current projections, only 5% of UK cars will be powered by electricity rather than petrol or diesel.

Transport is responsible for around 41% of total energy use in the UK – within this, road transport accounts for 29%, railways 1%, shipping 2% and aviation 9%.

The think tank believes the mobility transition will only succeed if a new generation of clean and connected vehicles can be powered. In particular, suitable ultra low emission fuels will need to accommodate the growth in clean vehicles while also ensuring the steady decarbonisation of their supply chains.

It adds the north of England is “well positioned” to take advantage of this challenge, with its high renewables potential, industrial assets and the “first mover” advantage in new fuel technologies.

Some of the suggestions in the report include a focus on incentives for drivers to upgrade to electric cars and the roll out of hydrogen-powered trains in the North.

The IPPR is also calling on the government to phase out diesel cars over the coming years and introduce a new scrappage scheme.

Darren Baxter, Researcher at IPPR North said: “The evidence shows toxic air is killing up to 40,000 children and adults a year. This is one of the biggest problems of our time but too little attention is paid to this key issue, especially outside the capital.

“To prevent more avoidable deaths, we need to see big incentives for those buying a car to go electric, funded in part by a tax on the most polluting vehicles as well as seeing a real commitment by councils and the Department of Transport to make clean air a top priority.”

The news comes ahead of the publication of the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) Clean Air Strategy later this month.

Defra said it is “firmly committed” to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions.

A spokesperson added: “That’s why we have committed more than £2 billion since 2011 to increase the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles and support greener transport schemes and set out how we will improve air quality through a new programme of Clean Air Zones.”