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Diesel scrappage scheme would be a key weapon in Government air pollution reduction plans

Diesel scrappage scheme would be a key weapon in Government air pollution reduction plans
3 min read

A targeted scrappage scheme would provide proper incentives for a transition to cleaner vehicles, says Neil Parish MP.

The Government is about to publish its plan to tackle illegally poor air quality. Today, I’m holding a debate in Parliament to call for a targeted diesel scrappage scheme to be part of that plan.

The last Labour Government incentivised people to buy diesel vehicles because of their better CO2 performance. We now know this was a public policy mistake. Diesel engines emit far higher levels of nitrogen oxides, creating toxic air which causes and worsens health conditions like asthma and bronchitis. These noxious gases also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke and are linked to tens of thousands of premature deaths in Britain every year.

Diesel drivers, who bought their vehicles in good faith, are now expected to be hit hard. They are likely to face higher duty and even toxin taxes of up to £20 per day in some areas. A diesel scrappage scheme would see a more balanced approach and would be a key weapon in the armoury of the Government in tackling air pollution problems. It would perfectly complement the Government’s plans for Clean Air Zones and would allow drivers to trade in their dirty diesels before higher charges come into force.

To genuinely tackle toxic air, however, there needs to be a real focus on the oldest, most polluting diesels, as well as the pollution hot spots. It is estimated there are currently 5.6 million diesel cars on British roads that were registered before 2005 (these are the EURO Standards 1, 2, 3 and 4). It is also estimated that there are around 900,000 of these types of diesel vehicles in the top 16 pollution hot spots in the country. By creating a targeted scrappage scheme, the Government could help remove more than half of the dirtiest diesels from the worst pollution hot spots.

Scrappage should mandate users to swap their diesel vehicle for an Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle or other forms of transport, such as car club membership, a rail season ticket or even a new bicycle. It would work in a similar way to the Pollution Reduction Vouchers Scheme operating in Southern California. The previous UK scrappage scheme, in 2009-10, meant a vehicle could be scrapped in exchange for a £2,000 discount, £1,000 from the Government and £1,000 from car manufacturers. If the Government introduced a similar scheme - and earmarked £500 million, over 10% of the 5 million dirtiest diesels could be taken off our roads forever.

I know Ministers have baulked at costs for a scrappage scheme. But they should not be put off. It need not be an open-ended funding commitment. A targeted, capped scheme at £500 million would be a real tonic to get dirty diesels off the road quickly. Even better, they would be replaced with a ULEV or another clean transport option, boosting those markets.

The Prime Minister has spoken about the fact that past governments have encouraged people to buy diesel cars and that this needs to be taken into account. A diesel scrappage scheme presents the perfect opportunity to do this. We need a carrot and stick approach, providing proper incentives to transition to cleaner transport and cleaner air.

Neil Parish is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Tiverton and Honiton

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