Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Air pollution and driving

Radical shift in transport policy needed to cut air pollution

Dr. Gary Robertshaw
March 2010

Air pollution is taking up to nine years off the lives of people who live in pollution hotspots or who have a respiratory illness, according to a report by the UK House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee. Tiny particles of sulphate, carbon and dust are the most damaging to health, but nitrogen oxides and ozone also have an effect. In fact, the UK is in breach of European regulations for all of these, and could face fines of up to £300 million. Road transport is the main culprit. Power plants also churn out damaging particles but mostly away from cities.

Only a radical shift in transport policy will allow the UK to meet its targets, the report concludes. "But such a shift is unlikely to occur in the next 10 years, unless the government starts taking sustainable transport seriously," says Paul Firmin of the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, UK.

Our view is that the incentive for drivers of large, inefficient vehicles such as 4x4s to switch to smaller, fuel-efficient cars is far too weak. A very significant increase in the road tax for the largest vehicles, most polluting vehicles is needed.

Finally, this isn’t just another debate surrounding global warming. It’s about ordinary people like us (I am asthmatic), who don’t want to be literally choked to death by air pollution.

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