Environmental lawyers ClientEarth are demanding urgent action to shift diesel vehicles off the UK’s roads as papers emerge showing ministers have known for decades that the fuel threatens people’s health – and yet made policy to encourage diesel vehicle uptake regardless.
James Thornton, CEO of ClientEarth, said: “This is truly unbelievable – an absolute scandal. Ministers knew full well that diesel was damaging people’s health but still ploughed ahead with policy that populated this country’s roads with diesel vehicles. Public health has consistently played second fiddle to false political priorities – and ministers are still not acting urgently enough to remedy it. The government cannot bargain with people’s health again.
“We now know that the government has known for decades that diesel was harmful. And we’re still living in a country with illegally poor air quality, despite two court orders against the government, while the tax system continues to favour the very vehicles that keep it dirty.
“Michael Gove needs to stop passing the buck to local authorities and actually put the people of this country first. Ministers have knowingly jeopardised our health and they must under absolutely no circumstances let it happen again.
“The Budget is the current government’s golden opportunity to make good on its duty to clean up our air. With the right policies, the Chancellor must urgently abolish the incentives that have condemned the country to illegally poor air quality for decades.
“It would be inexcusable not to take the strongest action now. We need a national network of Clean Air Zones to take the dirtiest vehicles out of the most polluted parts of our towns and cities. Philip Hammond should reform the vehicle tax system so it is based on what vehicles actually emit on the road. He must also finally launch a scrappage scheme, aided by the motor industry, to help those who bought diesel vehicles in good faith move to cleaner alternatives.”