An environmental group named ClientEarth took the UK government to Supreme Court in 2015, stating that the government’s proposal to comply with EU nitrogen dioxide limit laws was not enough. After the court agreed, the government now has less than a week to come up with a revised plan.
This change has been celebrated by Brake, a road safety charity, who agrees with ClientEarth that the UK is not doing enough to tackle a country-wide environmental issue.
Gary Rae, Brake’s director of campaigns, explained that “we are facing a major public health crisis, with 40,000 deaths in the UK each year from outdoor air pollution”, and as such, the High Court ruling, and an improved proposal from the government, is welcome news.
However, it is expected that any new measures put in place will directly impact the freight industry. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has stated that while “no-one questions the need for better air quality to improve people’s health… placing an unfair burden on the freight industry isn’t the answer”.
Christopher Snelling, the FTA’s head of national and regional policy, explained the FTA’s issue with the proposed changes: “The current Defra plan already sets in place targets in cities across the UK that will cost the industry millions and could force small businesses out of their markets.
"This is especially true for those relying on vans, because there simply won’t be enough compliant vehicles to satisfy the need.”
“If faster progress in commercial vehicle fleet renewal and a switch to alternative fuel is to be made, it will have to be on the basis of support from the government.”
“We know that, unlike cars, Euro VI HGVs are meeting their emissions limits. So as newer vehicles populate the fleet, the contribution from lorries will massively reduce anyway. Further regulation of HGVs will only produce a very short blip of emissions reduction, at a massive cost to industry, especially small businesses.”
The new proposed changes are expected over the coming days.