Oxford City Council, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth to launch Charter for Cleaner Air

Published: Wednesday, 29th August 2018

A new charter for cleaner air is to be launched by Oxford City Council, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth, calling on the Government to place the health of communities first.

The charter, which was created by Oxford City Council, is believed to be the first formal cooperation with Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth (EWNI) (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) to be led by a local authority.

The charter calls on the government to:

  1. Remove the most polluting vehicles from most polluting parts of towns and cities.
  2. Provide greater investment in public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure.
  3. End the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans earlier than 2040.
  4. Provide fiscal incentives to help people and businesses adopt cleaner vehicles.
  5. Invest in charging infrastructure and the supporting power network.
  6. Ensure fossil fuels do not generate the power used to fuel electrified vehicles.
  7. Tighten legal limits on air pollution to match World Health Organisation guideline levels.
  8. Improve the national monitoring and modelling of air pollution.
  9. Adopt a new Clean Air Act, or equivalent for 21st century and independent watchdog with teeth.
  10. Launch a national public health campaign and alert system to highlight the dangers of 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.

Data published last week by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimated that between 28,000 and 36,000 premature deaths in the UK every year could be linked to long-term exposure to air pollution. Health experts have warned that there is no safe level of NO2.

In June the City Council wrote 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.

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.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Board Member for Safer and Greener Environment at Oxford City Council said: “We all have a right to breathe clean air. Oxford City Council is cleaning up our air with world-leading practical changes but we're hitting the limits of what we can achieve with the powers and funding we have from Government.

“That's why we're raising our voice with change-making campaigning organisations Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and calling for action.

“We believe that we can achieve more for the people of Oxford by combining to call for more powers and funding.

“This Charter is calling on Government to adopt ten crucial actions to put the health of our communities first. If Government doesn't heed our calls and make these changes, the citizens of this city will continue to live, work and commute in its toxic air. Confining the people of Oxford to the harmful health impacts of toxic air is morally wrong and Government need to make these changes now.”

Dr Doug Parr, Chief Scientist at Greenpeace UK, said:  “Without urgent action to remove diesel vehicles from our roads many thousands of people each year will be compelled to suffer ill health and early death, with the associated costs on our struggling NHS. This is the only financially prudent, as well as compassionate, solution to our diesel pollution crisis. 

“This Charter shows admirable ambition for cleaning up our air where people work, shop and live. We look forward to the its delivery by Oxford and other cities”

Craig Bennet, Chief Executive at Friends of the Earth (EWNI) (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), said: “We all have the right to clean air, and yet millions of people across the UK are breathing toxic air on a daily basis. Oxford City Council is showing the strong leadership needed against air pollution, and this charter demonstrates that local authorities up and down the country want to see more done to clean up our air. The UK government must pay attention to this call, and step up to deliver clean air for all.

“The government has so far been far too happy to pass the buck to cash-strapped local authorities. Councils need increased resources to help people out of polluting cars and to make green transport like walking, cycling and public transport a viable alternative.”

More about the Cleaner Air Charter.