What should I be calling for in my area?

The below will help provide you with the information you need to decide what measures will be the most suitable to call for in your area.

A.      INFORMATION which will help you decide what action to call for

A1. What is the air like near you?

We suggest that first you check how bad air pollution is like in your area LINK. This will tell you for instance whether you live in an area which exceeds the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended level for fine particle air pollution (PM2.5), and whether you live with levels of the toxic gas Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) failing the UK/EU legal standards, or the requirements under the separate but related Local Air Quality Management (LAQM), which sets the same limit for NO2.

Contact us (cleanair@foe.co.uk) if you would like to know more about tackling levels of PM2.5 pollution, including from transport and other sources such as wood burning. You can see the sources nationally of PM2.5s here. The government are producing an Air Quality Strategy covering how they plan to tackle the various pollutants from a mix of sources.

The information below is particularly related to tackling NO2 as that is currently seen as the most pressing problem due to illegal levels in 37 out of 43 of the Air Quality Zones into which the UK is divided for air pollution purposes, and in most of our cities and major towns. You can see the sources nationally of NO2 LINK, but the government is clear that local road transport is responsible for 60% of the roadside illegal NO2 problem (with background traffic another 18%), with diesel cars being the single biggest contributor (at 35%) of those local road transport emissions (see Figure 3 of the Detailed NO2 Plan).

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A2. What is your council already doing?

It’s worth checking what your Local Authority is already doing, and what is planned to tackle air pollution. There should be information on your council’s website, including an Action Plan for any local Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) your Local Authority has had to declare in your area under the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) regime, and information in your council’s Annual Status Report (ASR), which Local Authorities are required to produce under the LAQM. Find out more on these from our page on how to find out what the air is like near you, as per the above, and here.

B.      WHAT ACTION TO CALL FOR

B1. Is there a legal requirement to reduce illegal levels of NO2 in the shortest possible time in your area?

As suggested above, check what the air is like near you (see above/here) and whether your area is listed by the government as one they forecast to still have illegal levels of NO2 now or even further into the future (see the list at Annex K of the Detailed NO2 Plan from here, which also shows dates until which, without further action, there is forecast to still be illegal levels of NO2).

If your Local Authority is listed, you can call for the strongest possible action to bring levels of NO2 down to legal limits in the shortest time possible, as required by the three-fold legal requirement, as set out in this High Court judgement:

73.  As I explained in the November 2016 judgment, the proper construction of Article 23 imposes a three-fold obligation on the Secretary of State; he must aim to achieve compliance by the soonest date possible; he must choose a route to that objective which reduces exposure as quickly as possible; and that he must take steps which mean meeting the value limits is not just possible, but likely. It follows that the Secretary of State must ensure that there is in place a plan for each zone which meets the three-fold obligation. (http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2018/315.html&query=(clientearth) – Client Earth 3 case, against the government)

Meeting these legal limits, under the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive, is an absolute requirement – and should be pursued irrespective of cost (and indeed political difficulty) [LINK].

There are further stretches of road which are the responsibility of Highways England not listed in the NO2 Plan’s Annex K, but which are forecast as having illegal NO2, and which are subject to the same rigorous criteria to reduce levels to legal limits.

Note that there may be places beyond those on the NO2 Plan’s Annex K list which government estimated not to have an illegal air quality problem but which, with more accurate local modelling, might reveal levels of NO2 which could be deemed to be failing EU legal limits, and which thus should have been on Annex K.

And if your area isn’t on the NO2 Plan’s Annex K list and is not technically considered to have illegal levels of NO2, but fails to meet limits under the separate but related Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) regime which sets its Objective limit at the same 40 micrograms /m3 level at which the legal limit is set (see section below on Air Quality Management Areas), Friends of the Earth’s view is that the same rigorous criteria to reducing levels should apply.

B2. A charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) or other measures?

Not all places, even if they have illegal levels of NO2, are suitable for a charging CAZ, but also there are areas beyond those with illegal levels of NO2 which should also be considered for a charging CAZ.

First of all what is a CAZ? The government says:

“Clean Air Zones are geographic areas used as a focus for action to improve air quality” (which can include measures such as retrofitting technologies, encouraging more use of public transport, walking and cycling etc), and charging CAZs are where in addition “vehicle owners are required to pay a charge to enter, or move within, a zone if they are driving a vehicle that does not meet the particular standard for their vehicle type in that zone” (NO2 Plan, Detailed Plan, para 104).

The government has made clear that charging CAZs are key to tackling illegal NO2 pollution, stating that “a network of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) is the most effective route to compliance for the majority of exceedances” (NO2 Plan Technical Report, section 1.6, referring to draft NO2 Plan)

And the government say that there is a clear social justice case for strong action, such as a CAZ:

“… actions aimed at reducing the highest concentrations of NO2 have the potential to narrow the gap and disproportionately benefit more deprived and ethnically diverse groups by reducing the extent of inequalities.”

And there is support for CAZs, including among motorists [2 x LINKS – CE and https://www.slatergordon.co.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2018/08/revealed-half-of-british-motorists-want-diesels-banned-from-the-road/ ]

However a charging CAZ will only be suitable for areas where it can be put in place in time for it to help bring forward the date at which limits will be met.                                                       

B2a. Charging Clean Air Zones (CAZs)

Friends of the Earth is calling for charging CAZs to be put in place in some of the areas listed in Annex K of the Detailed NO2 Plan forecast to still have illegal levels of NO2 now or further into the future– that is those which would otherwise still have illegal levels of NO2 in 2020 / would not get legal levels till 2021 or beyond, and for which a CAZ must be put in place as soon as possible in 2019. (see here [FOE charging CAZ list if we do one] and below)

It should be noted that, apart from 5 cities (see below) for which the government have the same expectations in terms of timing as Friends of the Earth, for other cities the government only expects charging CAZs would be in place in 2020, and would thus be relevant only for places which would otherwise still have illegal levels of NO2 in 2021 / would not get legal levels till 2022 or beyond.

For what sort of CAZs Friends of the Earth wants to see, see below.

Where does Friends of the Earth think needs, and is suitable for, a charging CAZ?

(i)                 London

This, with the UK’s worst NO2 problem, has it’s own CAZ equivalent, the existing London-wide Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which is due to be strengthened, with the forthcoming Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London, set to be expanded to inner London [ideally date/LINK], and a possible central London Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ).

Friends of the Earth considers that the ULEZ needs to come in sooner and be London–wide for all vehicles, and the ZEZ to come in sooner.

(ii)               5 cities (Birmingham, Leeds, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton)

The 5 cities, forecast to have the next worst NO2 after London, were required to develop a charging CAZ from the earlier 2015 NO2 Plan - Birmingham and Leeds a Class C (to include busses and coaches, taxis and PHVs, HGVs and LGVs but not cars), and the others a Class B (without the LGVs) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/486636/aq-plan-2015-overview-document.pdf.

However now, in the current 2017 NO2 Plan, despite this Plan revealing  worse air pollution than in the 2015 version, the cities were more open-endedly required to come up with plans for how they would tackle air pollution by September 2018 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/746095/air-quality-no2-plan-directions-2017.pdf from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/air-quality-plan-for-nitrogen-dioxide-no2-in-uk-2017-air-quality-directions

Friends of the Earth wants all these to be required to have strong CAZs (see below)

(iii)               23 Local Action Plan (LAP) places (Basildon, Bath & NE Somerset, Bolton, Bristol, Bury, Coventry, Fareham, Gateshead, Guildford, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, New Forest, North Tyneside, Rochford, Rotherham, Rushmoor, Salford, Sheffield, Stockport, Surrey Heath, Tameside, Trafford)

These are those which the 2017 NO2 Plan required Local Action Plans by the end of 2018 (and are identified in Annex K of that NO2 Plan as such): https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/746095/air-quality-no2-plan-directions-2017.pdf from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/air-quality-plan-for-nitrogen-dioxide-no2-in-uk-2017-air-quality-directions

Friends of the Earth wants all these to be required to have strong CAZs (see below)

(iv)              A further 12 places from the remaining 33 places forecast in England to have illegal NO2 still now, or further into the future (Bolsover, Bradford, Broxbourne, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Portsmouth, Stoke-on-Trent - plus also Dudley, Reading, Oldham and Walsall)

The government were forced by a legal ruling (the Client Earth 3 case) to require an assessment to be done in a further 33 places from the NO2 Plan’s Annex K which they hadn’t before – those others remaining with forecast illegal NO2 still in 2018 or beyond, (Ministerial Direction for requiring the 33 to assess NO2 in their area: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/746097/air-quality-no2-plan-direction-2018-feasibility-study.pdf)

The results of these assessments revealed, with supposedly more accurate local modelling, that some places have got worse levels of NO2 and were expected to meet legal limits later than the government had estimated (and some have lower levels of NO2 and were expected to meet legal limits earlier than the government had estimated) (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/746100/air-quality-no2-plan-supplement.pdf).

Thus the government has now required Local Authorities to come up with plans in 8 places of those 33, which, without further measures, are now forecast to have illegal NO2 still in 2021 or beyond / would not get legal NO2 till 2022 at the earliest  (Ministerial Direction for the 8: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/746118/air-quality-no2-plan-direction-2018-feasibility-study2.pdf, interim plans by end of January 2019, final by the end of October 2019).

Friends of the Earth wants all these 8 to be required to have strong CAZs (see below)

However there are a further 4 places from the list of 33 which Friends of the Earth considers should also be added to the list of 8 being required to take further action, and be required to have strong CAZs (those which, without further measures, would have illegal NO2 still in 2020 or beyond / would not get legal NO2 till 2021 at the earliest, as Friends of the Earth considers that CAZs should be in place ASAP in 2019).

There may well be other places forecast by the government to have had illegal levels of NO2 supposedly brought down to legal levels by now but which actually should also be required to take further action, and possibly require a CAZ - and separately some other places could have projected levels of NO2 which could be deemed illegal, when this was not forecast by the government and which could also possibly also require a CAZ:

·         The list of 33 places required to take action left off 12 places from the NO2 Plan’s Annex K list because the government forecast these to have levels of NO2 brought down to legal levels by 2018, so these were not required to do a local assessment with local modelling - but if this were done, the more accurate local modelling might reveal the date for meeting legal limits was later than the government had estimated, and which could even mean a charging CAZ should be required.

·         Also there may be places which are not on the government’s NO2 Plan’s Annex K list of places forecast to have illegal NO2 at all, but which should have been – more accurate local modelling could mean places screened out by the government for meeting legal tests should not have been, and could in fact have air pollution deemed to be failing EU legal limits, and which could even mean a charging CAZ should be required.

 (v)                Devolved Administrations

These Nations are considered separately by the government, but those places forecast by the government to have illegal levels of NO2 are included in NO2 Plan’s Annex K - and there are some which fulfil the criteria which Friends of the Earth use above for requiring a charging CAZ.

Note Friends of the Earth Scotland is a separate but sister organisation – see xxx for information on their air pollution work.

(vi)               Places with an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) for NO2

Separately to the requirement to meet the EU’s legal limits or Limit Values for NO2 (but relatedly), Local Authorities are required to meet an Objective for NO2 (which is set at the same 40 microgram/m3 level as the legal Limit Value), and an AQMA declared if this would be failed. (https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/aqma/list).

Friends of the Earth considers that a charging CAZ should be considered anyway to address levels of NO2 over the 40 microgram/m3 level in AQMAs if this would bring forward the meeting the 40 limit. And for any areas already needing a charging CAZ to tackle air pollution deemed illegal Friends of the Earth considers that it must ensure that the city’s AQMAs are also included, if this would bring forward resolving issues in those areas.

What Friends of the Earth wants for CAZs:

Friends of the Earth wants to see the strong and effective charging CAZs. We consider that these should:

·         Include all vehicle types – see above on how (diesel) cars are the single biggest contributor to local road traffic emissions, which are the biggest part of the illegal roadside NO2 problem, so cars should not be omitted.

·         vehicles must actually meet prescribed requirements before being allowed to enter charging CAZs – for instance a Euro diesel 6 car must actually emit no more in real world driving than the Euro 6 standards (ie has a “Conformity Factor” of 1). A labelling system to help consumers identify which vehicles would achieve a CF1 would be an important accompanying measure.

·         Large area CAZ, and AQMAs to be included

Friends of the Earth generally advocate a large area, ie generally city-wide, charging CAZ – as this will help avoid displacement of non CAZ compliant vehicles to areas outside the boundary of a charging CAZ, and help ensure legal requirements are met. In addition Friends of the Earth considers that areas covered by AQMAs should be included in a charging CAZ (if that could bring forward the resolution of issues in those areas).

·         Other complimentary measures to the charging CAZ - rather than consider other measures instead of a charging CAZ, as the government have asked some Local Authorities, Friends of the Earth considers that additional and complementary/supplementary measures should be considered as well as a charging CAZ – if these could help deliver on the requirements. See below on other measures.

·         Supporting measures from the government also needed

To complement and support the actions of Local Authorities the government needs to act – both with financial support and measures. See below B2b below on other measures.

See also our FAQ on Clean Air Zones

 

B2b. Non-charging CAZ / other measures

This course of action is what is needed for areas which are not suitable for a charging CAZ (see B2a above).

This will include places on the government’s NO2 Plan’s Annex K list, forecast to have illegal NO2, but those other than listed above as suitable for a CAZ – ie only those for which a CAZ would not be able to be in place in time to bring forward the date at which legal limits would be met. Those with illegal air are still subject to the rigorous requirements (see B1 above), even if not suitable for a charging CAZ.

This course of action will also be suitable for those with an AQMA for NO2, but for which a CAZ would not be able to be in place in time to bring forward compliance - and Friends of the Earth argues the same rigorous criteria should apply to these areas with NO2 over the same 40 microgram/m3 level as that at which the legal limit is set as those deemed to have illegal air.

Also such measures will be suitable for any other area wanting to take action on air pollution.

What about other measures to call for?

There are many measures which the government is suggesting, and which are set out in their CAZ Framework, Section 2 (on non-charging CAZs) [LINK], and the government’s Policy Guidance for the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) regime may also be of interest [LINK].

You can also look at the vision Friends of the Earth has of what cities can be like if adopting progressive measures to tackle air pollution, and how this can make cities desirable places in which to live, work, study and visit.

(i)                 Local Authorities

Measures to help people transition to clean vehicles can be key, and Local Authorities can consider a local scrappage scheme to help people move away from the most polluting vehicles, including those who may have bought a diesel vehicle in good faith, and more Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure - as well as measures such as those to support upgrades of taxis and PHVs, and for busses. Differential parking measures and ‘School streets’ restrictions at certain times of day can also help.

However, key will be measures to make sure that alternatives to driving are available. Measures such as better walking, safer cycling (active travel) and more affordable public transport options are key for all areas (including where charging CAZs are planned so that people have alternative options to driving when the CAZ comes in).

These measures should be part of a wider plan to reduce road traffic levels overall. It is essential that (as well as vehicles on our roads being clean) there are also fewer vehicles – there is no such thing as a clean car or vehicle as all produce the most dangerous fine Particle Matter (PM) air pollution from tyre and brake wear.

(ii)               Supporting measures from the government also needed

To complement and support the actions of Local Authorities the government needs to act – both with financial support (and a group of city leaders is calling for a bigger fund to help them act on air pollution [LINK]), as well as measures.

·         To hasten the situation of vehicles on our roads being clean:

o   bring forward the date at which the government propose to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040 to at least 2030

o   to revise road tax to discourage the more polluting vehicles and end the freeze on fuel duty

o   to develop a government-led scrappage scheme (with motor manufacturers contributing) which would offer not only cleaner vehicles but also car club membership and alternatives to driving such as a rail season ticket or e-bike loan

o   further investment in EV charging infrastructure

·         To cut traffic levels including by further support and investment in affordable public transport (including more funding for retrofitting existing vehicles), and for safe cycling and better walking facilities (including increasing investment in active travel to £10/head by 2020, as recommended by the Royal College of Physicians https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/reducing-air-pollution-uk-progress-report-2018). Options such as road user charging, or pay-as-you-go driving, should also be considered for the longer term.

·         Traffic generating schemes such as airport expansion and road building which would add to the air pollution problem must be scrapped.