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A 21st century Clean Air Act must phase out diesel – says Friends of the Earth

news release

A Clean Air Act fit for the 21st century must include a phase out of diesel says Friends of the Earth, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan announces plans to clean up London’s air.

60 years on from the Clean Air Act – which came into being following the deaths of thousands of Londoners from the Great Smog of 1952 – we are still breathing illegally dirty air, and diesel fumes are a major contributor.

Diesel fumes and dirty air cause lung cancer and contribute to heart disease, lung disease and worsening asthma; killing 40,000 people in the UK early each year – including nearly 10,000 Londoners.

Friends of the Earth welcomed Sadiq Khan’s latest intervention on air pollution, including echoing Friends of the Earth’s call for a diesel scrappage scheme, but is calling for the UK Government, local authorities and London’s Mayor to phase out diesel and reduce traffic to make the air we breathe safer.

Commenting on the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act and responding to the Mayor of London’s speech, Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth’s Air Pollution Campaigner, said:

“Road traffic is a big problem for air pollution and diesel vehicles are the worst of all – which is why calls for a new Clean Air Act must include the phasing out of diesel.

“Diesel fumes and air pollution cause lung cancer. 40,000 people die early in the UK each year from dirty air and many more lives, including huge numbers of children, are blighted by asthma and lung infections.

“Other countries and cities are leading the way on dealing with this public health crisis, so we know it can be done. The Netherlands and Norway are planning a ban of new diesel and petrol cars for sale from 2025, while large parts of Copenhagen are traffic free, Oslo plans to cut traffic by 20% within 3 years and Paris has removed the worst polluting vehicles from their roads.

“Sadiq Khan’s call for a diesel scrappage scheme is a great start to help reduce dirty diesel fumes but to save lives, we must look to both phase out diesel and reduce traffic to make the air we breathe safer.

Jenny Bates added:

“Air pollution doesn’t respect national borders. The Mayor is absolutely right to call for Government to continue to work with our European neighbours to deal with this deadly issue.”

Friends of the Earth is calling for:

  • A Government commitment to a phasing out diesel – including working with manufacturers on a carefully planned and generous scrappage scheme which would help those who bought diesels in good faith switch to other vehicles
  • The Government, city mayors and local authorities to reduce traffic levels – by investing in walking, cycling and public transport, and avoiding traffic-generating developments which worsen the air pollution problem
  • Clean Air Zones in all the UK’s cities and major towns, not just the 5 currently being proposed beyond London, and for London itself an Ultra Low Emission Zone which covers the whole of the capital
  • Emergency traffic restrictions to be put in place on high-pollution days to prevent the worst effects of pollution and immediately protect people’s health
  • The Government to commit to maintaining and upholding EU protections on air pollution regardless of the outcome of Brexit and set out how World Health Organisation recommended levels will be met
  • The London Mayor to ensure the capital meets EU limits on NO2 by 2020 like the rest of the country, rather than 2025 which current government plans predict

For press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust

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