Oxford City Council calls on Government to adopt 10-point plan to help tackle toxic air pollution

Published: Monday, 6th August 2018

Oxford City Council has written to environment secretary Michael Gove to call for a 10-point contract with local authorities to provide more powers and funding to tackle toxic air pollution

New data showed that air pollution in Oxford fell by 22.7% between 2016 and 2017, but four of the city’s monitoring locations still registered levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) above the legal limit.

Air pollution currently cuts short about 40,000 lives across the UK every year, and health experts have warned that there is no safe level of NO2.

The 10-point plan – which was sent to Mr Gove by Councillor Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council’s Board Member for a Safer and Greener Environment – calls for the Government to:

  1. End the sale of all new polluting vehicles earlier than 2040. In June, the City Council joined leaders representing a dozen cities, including the Mayor of London, to call on the Government to bring the deadline forward to 2030.
  2. Install infrastructure to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles. This should include, working with local authorities, installing electric vehicle charging points and clean energy power stations
  3. Revise Vehicle Excise Duty to incentivise the purchase of new and second-hand zero-emissions vehicles. Non-polluting vehicles should have lower Vehicle Excise Duty than polluting vehicles
  4. Revise the standard driving licence to increase the maximum payload of light goods vehicles. Electric vans, due to their batteries, tend to be heavier than polluting vans. (The Government already has plans to achieve this.)
  5. Implement a polluting vehicle scrappage scheme
  6. Put equity to those on low incomes at the heart of every approach. Increase excise duty on new diesel vehicles from April 2019 to fund a diesel scrappage scheme for low-income families and businesses
  7. Tighten clean air standards in line with the latest scientific evidence. The European Union set the legal limit for NO2 as 40µg/m3, but this was supposed to be met in 2010. Scientific evidence has moved on since then, and the World Health Organization is currently looking at changing its current 40µg/m3 limit.
  8. Take into account Oxford’s local data for developing national air quality measures. The Government currently only uses Oxford’s three continuous monitoring stations to measure air pollution; it does not take into account the City Council’s 72 other monitoring locations
  9. Establish an independent watchdog to enforce air quality measures after leaving the European Union. Currently, national governments are held to account on air pollution levels by the European Union
  10. Launch a public health campaign to highlight the dangers of air pollution and the health benefits of switching to electric vehicles

The letter was sent to Mr Gove by Councillor Hayes in June. The City Council has not yet received a response from Mr Gove or his office.

Oxford City Council was named as the number one local authority in the UK for tackling air pollution by Government Business, and ClientEarth named the City Council as one of the best local authorities in the UK for tackling air pollution.

Last year, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council announced proposals to introduce the world’s first Zero Emission Zone in Oxford city centre in stages between 2020 and 2035.

Oxford City Council has secured £3.25m of Government funding in recent years to help with the introduction of the Zero Emission Zone, including £1.7m to upgrade buses, £800,000 to install electric vehicle charging points for residents, and £500,000 to install charging points for taxis. Oxford has also secured £474,000 of Government funding to introduce the world’s first pop-up electric vehicle charging points.

Earlier this month, 300 leaders and key players from the electric vehicle and charging infrastructure industries came together at the Oxford EV Summit to explore opportunities – and barriers – to creating a zero-emission future.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Executive Board Member for a Safer and Greener Environment, said: “There is no safe level of air pollution. Air pollution is an invisible killer, and we want to work with Government to accelerate our pollution protection because, for every day that we don’t, people will live in it, work in it and commute in it.

“Air pollution isn’t just an environmental concern. Nor is it simply a public health crisis. It’s a clear health injustice – everybody breathes the same air, but the poorest in our communities and the very vulnerable are hit hardest by toxic pollution.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Mr Gove has the chance to put the health of towns and cities across the UK first by signing up to our 10-point contract and making the much-needed step-changes to accelerate the electric revolution.”

Download the letter from Cllr Hayes to Mr Gove.