Clean Air Zones: Mayors call for £1.5bn fund to tackle air pollution

The mayors want to offer between £2,000 and £6,000 to homes and businesses to either upgrade existing vehicles or get rid of their older, polluting cars and switch to cleaner ones

Pathway to COP26 report

Mayors of 14 major cities are calling for a £1.5 billion fund to support a network of 30 new and existing Clean Air Zones to help tackle pollution.

Under the scheme, people with the most polluting vehicles would pay a fee for driving in the zones that would be established within city centres.

The leaders include London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Mayor of West of England Combined Authority Tim Bowles and Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees.

UK100, an umbrella group for the mayors, commissioned a report which showed towns and cities could see an economic return of £6.5 billion with support from government to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

Under the plans, the mayors want to offer incentives of between £2,000 and £6,000 to lower income residents and small businesses to either upgrade existing vehicles or get rid of their older, polluting cars and switch to cleaner ones such as electric vehicles (EVs) or public transport.

As well as support for buying ultra-low emission vehicles, the cash could also be put towards car clubs, bike hire schemes or a public transport season ticket.

The mayors are calling for a partnership with industry to contribute to the national vehicle reward scheme, similar to how car manufacturers have contributed to Germany’s Sustainability Mobility Fund for cities, ahead of the chancellor’s Spending Review.

The 30 Clean Air Zones would be introduced in all cities the government warns will have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide by 2021, including Bristol, Coventry, Guilford, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Southampton.

Currently, London is the only city in the UK with an ultra-low emission zone, which was introduced earlier this year.

Mr Khan said: “Air pollution is a national health crisis which is responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths around the country and costs over £20 billion a year. I have taken bold action to tackle lethal air in the capital with the Ultra Low Emission Zone, the first of the UK’s Clean Air Zones, which is already having a positive impact on reducing harmful emissions.

“But cities including London cannot deliver further Clean Air Zones without urgent government funding. This funding must include a new national vehicle renewal scheme, which would help businesses and residents prepare for London’s ULEZ expansion in 2021. Everyone deserves the right to breathe clean air and the Chancellor simply cannot afford to delay immediate action on this invisible killer.”

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, added: “We have always been clear that air pollution is not just a Birmingham issue; it is a national public health crisis. If the government is serious about tackling this crisis then it needs to support other cities across the country in implementing their own Clean Air Zones so that we can all work together to clean up our air, as well as funding a national scrappage scheme.

“We have to ensure that those with the most polluting vehicles are able to make the switch to a cleaner, greener replacement as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”

Supporters of the Clean Air Fund also include:
– Steve Rotherham, Mayor, Liverpool City Region
– Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor, Leicester City Council
– Dan Jarvis, Mayor of Sheffield City Region
– Cllr Ian Ward, Leader, Birmingham City Council
– Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader, Cambridge City Council
– Cllr Judith Blake, Leader, Leeds City Council
– Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader, Newcastle City Council
– Cllr David Mellen, Leader, Nottingham City Council
– Cllr Susan Brown, Leader, Oxford City Council
– Cllr Chris Hammond, Leader, Southampton City Council

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