A scrappage scheme would allow motorists – once actively encouraged to switch to low-carbon options – to trade in their diesel vehicles for alternative cars at a lower cost, funded by the Government.
Transport Secretary Patrick Mcloughlin recently suggested Chancellor George Osborne may want to consider a rise in diesel taxes, or at least a reduction in initiatives which encourage people to purchase diesel cars. This has prompted calls from various fuel campaigners and ministers for a scrappage option.
But the RAC’s chief engineer David Bizley believes such a solution would only pay off if it were to include the UK’s worst road offenders - public transport and commercial vehicles.
“A diesel scrappage scheme for private cars might sound like the silver bullet to solve the UK’s air quality woes, but in reality it is unlikely to be the answer when it is older buses and commercial vehicles that account for the largest share of road user nitrogen dioxide emissions,” he says.
“Our fear would be huge sums of money being spent on a scheme that takes many thousands of diesel cars off the road, without materially improving air quality in the areas that suffer the most.
“Diesel cars typically contribute around 35% of the nitrogen dioxide generated by road users in our cities. In London, the figure is less. The focus needs to therefore be on tackling the other 65%, most of which is generated by buses and commercial vehicles – meaning additional funding for a scheme to scrap or clean up these vehicles would likely have a greater positive impact.”
Mr Bizley adds that the air quality problem requires localised solutions, and that clean air zones – outside of London’s existing Ultra Low Emission Zone – would go a long way towards improving the situation.
He added that solving congestion issues should also become a priority for transport officials, ensuring roadworks don’t unnecessarily add to journey times.
A Government spokesman added that improving air quality in the UK is a "priority" for ministers.