IAQM Chair’s thoughts on the petrol and diesel ban

Posted on July 26th, 2017

The IAQM’s Chair, Dr Claire Holman, has responded to news that the Government will be banning the sale of new diesel and petrol cars in the UK from 2040.

For many years the IAQM have highlighted the unacceptable levels of urban air pollution produced by diesel cars and the need for the UK to urgently seek to meet EU limited values. However, an outright ban on both petrol and diesel cars and vans may not be the best policy tool for achieving better air quality.

Claire says: Twenty five years ago petrol cars were the main culprit; today it is diesel vehicles causing poor air quality. Over that period engine and pollution abatement technology has changed beyond recognition and in another 20 plus years there could have been even greater advances.”

The announcement will stop research and development investment in these technologies over the coming years. The current alternatives, such as electric vehicles, can offer real benefits in urban areas in the short term but they are not necessarily the long term solution. The research and development community should not be given artificial constraints such as this ban.”

What do you think?

Setting long term stable targets allows industry to innovate towards set goals within known timetables. This policy approach has had considerable success in waste management (with the landfill tax escalator) and with carbon emissions (through the Climate Change Act), albeit neither being an outright ban. Could this announcement serve to accelerate the transition away from the internal combustion engine, to more sustainable solutions?

Or is a blanket ban on petrol and diesel too crude a policy tool? Would it be better to set enforceable, technology neutral emissions limits, backed up by a rigorous testing regime, and allow the car industry to use whatever technology they can to reach those targets?

We welcome the thoughts of IAQM members as we digest the Government’s full air quality plan to tackle NO2 emissions, published today.