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ClientEarth Communications

19th January 2022

Air pollution

Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone

A ‘Clean Air Zone’ is to be introduced in Greater Manchester at the end of May and it has sparked a big debate in the region.

From 30th May, some of the most polluting vehicles will have to pay a charge to enter a ‘clean air zone’. Others, including non-compliant vans and minibuses, are currently slated to be included in the scheme in June 2023. The details are here.

While the charge will not apply to private cars at either stage, the news has understandably worried the people and businesses who will have to pay the charge, particularly at a time when we are facing a cost of living hike in the UK.

We should not have got to this point.

We launched our first legal action against the UK Government for failing to clean up toxic air in the UK a decade ago. Since then we have constantly and consistently called for measures that would help business and people, particularly those on low incomes, to move to cleaner forms of transport.

Greater Manchester and the UK Government have been working on the region’s air quality plans since July 2017. In other words, the authorities have already had almost five years to consider all possible solutions.

Alarmingly, reports also seem to suggest that they want to pause the opening of the financial support scheme for vans and taxis that will be affected by the CAZ in June 2023. It’s up to local leaders to clear up the confusion and help people through the much-needed transition.

Breathing dirty air is estimated to cause 1,200 premature deaths in the Greater Manchester region every year, and affects the lives of many more.

Everybody is affected by air pollution but some members of our communities are more vulnerable than others, including children, older people and people with chronic illnesses. For example, Greater Manchester has the highest rate of asthma hospital admissions for children under 19 of any English combined authority outside of London, according to Public Health England.

That is why it is so important that the authorities get this right, provide the right support and bring down air pollution across Greater Manchester as soon as possible.

National and regional governments have had years to prepare for this moment and they must at this late stage come together to make these support packages available.

Among the measures that we have called for over the years are:

  • Scrappage schemes to help people and businesses, in particular people on low incomes and small businesses, get rid of their older, polluting vehicles and use to change over to cleaner vehicles.
  • A programme of mandatory vehicle recall, retrofit or upgrade to tackle the legacy of Dieselgate where vehicle manufacturers were revealed to be producing vehicles that were more polluting on our roads than in the laboratory tests. This programme would ensure that older, more polluting vehicles are cleaned up by their manufacturers.
  • Consumer and business incentives such as grants to help people and businesses, in particular people on low incomes and small businesses, buy cleaner vehicles – we have criticised the UK Government for reducing the Plug-In Vehicle grants last year. Using company car tax to incentivise and support cleaner vehicle choices, a time-limited VAT exemption to reduce the upfront costs of ZEEVs, which the government can do now that we have left the EU.
  • Greater investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as well as public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure.
  • National policies aimed at the vehicle manufacturing industry, including a zero-emission vehicle mandate, carbon emission performance, and the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles, to encourage vehicle manufactures to prioritise making electric vehicles cheaper and more accessible to people and businesses.
  • Investment in UK businesses and industry to develop and produce the technologies needed to support a zero emission transport system and create more jobs and support local economies.