Improving air quality must be a top priority

I very much welcome the Government’s efforts to tackle air pollution often caused by vehicle emissions. In a speech to the Conservative Environment Network I highlighted the seriousness of the problem particularly in urban areas, including the market town of Malton, which has high levels of concentrated nitrogen dioxide (or NOX) and which is a great concern to local residents.

The Government’s Clean Air Strategy sets out a comprehensive plan of action and goals across all departments to improve air quality. At the moment air pollution is a significant threat to public health, comparable to cancer, obesity and heart disease, and no doubt contributing heavily to them, which is why the Government is taking the issue very seriously.

According to the RAC there are 38.2 million vehicles on our roads so the most immediate air quality challenge is nitrogen dioxide concentrations around some roads. The Government has set aside £3.5 billion to support the Strategy which will fund the uptake of low emission vehicles; encourage cycling and walking; help local authorities to take action against NOX; improve air quality on the Strategic Road Network; retrofit buses and other measures.

The Government is working closely with 61 English local authorities, and has placed legal duties on them – underpinned by £495 million in funding – to tackle their NOX problems.

I myself drive an electric car and I welcome the commitment to end the sale of new conventional diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040. Technology may well prove our saviour with the game-changing opportunities of battery storage will change everything, and quickly. We’ve seen, for instance, a 13.8 per cent year on year increase in the sales of electric vehicles and, last year, Britain accounted for a fifth of all battery-electric vehicles built on the continent. In 2018 the UK was also the second biggest market for ULEVs. Competition and choice will benefit the consumer as 40 models of plug-in cars are now available, with more than 20 more expected to arrive this year.