Friday, 6th November 2015

Mix of technologies will be needed to tackle urban air pollution

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), the leading trade body for environmental companies, today published a report examining ways to tackle Britain’s air quality crisis. The report A clear choice for the UK: technology options of tackling air pollution includes modelling carried out by consultancy Temple Group which examines the costs and air quality benefits for rolling out five different pollution control technologies.

The five technology scenarios were:

  • Roll out of electric cars
  • Replacing old diesel cars with the latest models when tougher emissions standards come into force in 2018
  • Retrofitting 10,000 old buses with the latest emissions control exhaust systems
  • Switching to renewable diesel for construction site generators
  • Applying photocatalytic treatments to polluted roads

The modelling results (full details in Notes to Editors below), showed that:

  • No single technology is likely by itself to make significant enough cuts in air pollution
  • Electric cars could cost five times as much per tonne of pollution reduction compared to the other technologies modelled.
  • Different technologies have different strengths and weaknesses for example in whether they can be targeted on pollution hotspots and whether they reduce CO2 as well as NOx and Particulate Matter.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • Older buses outside London should be retrofitted with emissions control technology.
  • The planned erosion pf LPG duty differential should be reviewed and any future change in fuel taxation should take account of the impact of local air pollution as well as CO2
  • A scrappage scheme should be introduced to incentivise the owners of Euro4 and older diesel cars to replace them with new Euro 6c (once Euro 6c introduced and only if real world emissions performance has been delivered) or LPG cars.
  • The scheme to restrict emissions on construction site machinery in London recently introduced by the Mayor must be properly enforced, extended to include alternative fuels where these can be proven to deliver equivalent benefits to retrofit options and gradually made more stringent. The London scheme should also be rolled out to other UK cities
  • Investment in development of zero-emission vehicles such as electric vehicles should be balanced by funding for trials of innovative technologies which offer realistic prospects of cost-effective air pollution reductions – such as photo-catalytic treatments.
  • A statutory Air Quality Committee should be established based on the Climate Change Committee (CCC) created by the Climate Change Act. Like the CCC, the AQC would be independent of Government, and be required to report annually to Parliament on UK progress in meeting legal air pollution limits and on the effectiveness of government policies in delivering progress.
  • Indicator boards displaying real time air pollution data (referenced to EU limits) should be set up in major urban centres.
  • Dual carriageway speed limits should be reduced to 60mph where such roads pass through Air Quality Management Areas or the new Clean Air Zones.

Matthew Farrow, EIC Director said:

“Britain has an air pollution crisis. Electric vehicles have the potential to transform air quality but they are only one part of the jigsaw and in the short term appear relatively expensive compared to the other technologies modelled in our report. To protect public health we must make meaningful cuts in air pollution as soon as possible and the truth is we need to use all the cost effective technologies at our disposal alongside an electric car roll out. An additional benefit is the significant number of ‘green jobs’ that air pollution control technologies can create. The Government needs to facilitate and support this full range of solutions.”

Find the full report here.