766: Air Quality Plan may require more charging zones
Today’s entry reports on the publication of the Government’s latest Air Quality Plan.
After having been found wanting in the courts twice, the government published its latest plan to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels below permitted levels as quickly as possible last week, having consulted on a draft in the spring.
The latest plan consists of a summary, a detailed plan, a technical report and a ministerial direction.
The main provision that made the headlines is at paragraph 3 of the summary, that no petrol and diesel cars and vans will be able to be sold from 2040, although the document says this pledge was made in 2011. A ‘pathway to zero emission transport’ will be produced by March 2018. There are other provisions of note, though. The tone of the plan is now that the non-compliant areas are limited to fewer than 100 specific roads and so interventions need only be limited and targeted.
The previous plan required five low emission charging zones to be introduced in UK cities (Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton, London already having one) and although these aren’t mentioned in the new plan they were ‘banked’ back in May (see paragraph 37 of this document). Legislation has not yet been introduced, but it is expected to require these to be implemented by the end of 2019.
Although the draft plan suggested this list would be extended, the final plan does not require any more charging zones to be introduced (see paragraph 18 of the summary), although its modelling assumes they are introduced. The next tier of 23 authorities are directed to produce draft local plans by the end of March 2018 and final plans by December, and if they aren’t introducing a charging zone will have to demonstrate that they will achieve compliance just as quickly.
The list of 23 authorities required to produce a plan is: Basildon, Bath and North East Somerset, Bolton, Bristol, Bury, Coventry, Fareham, Gateshead, Guildford, Manchester, Middlesbrough, New Forest, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Rochford, Rotherham, Rushmoor, Salford, Sheffield, Stockport, Surrey Heath, Tameside and Trafford.
Most of the other measures, listed at table 2 of the detailed plan, starting on page 19, are to encourage improvements to vehicles through additional funding and other incentives, although there will be a move to measure ‘real driving emissions’ by September this year.
ClientEarth, the organisation which successfully took the Government to court twice over its previous plans and once unsuccessfully (it challenged the draft of this plan but was told to wait until the final plan was published), has already disparaged the new plan, saying:
‘this is little more than a shabby rewrite of the previous draft plans and is underwhelming and lacking in urgency. Having promised to make air quality a top priority, Michael Gove appears to have fallen at the first hurdle. This plan is, yet again, a plan for more plans.’
I do have some sympathy with that view: requiring charging zones to be introduced but allowing over two and a half years to do so, and requiring plans in 18 months only then for them to be implemented doesn’t seem to be ‘as soon as possible’, as required by the legislation. I expect ClientEarth will be troubling Mr Justice Garnham again fairly soon.