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Almost half of Britons back restrictions on polluting cars, only 18% opposed – as Friends of the Earth calls for government commitment to clean air everywhere

news release
  • Government Air Quality Plan expected this week
  • Environmental charity urges government to act on dirty diesel

The government is being urged by Friends of the Earth to act on dirty diesel vehicles in its soon-to-be-published draft air quality plan after a YouGov survey for the environmental campaign group revealed that almost half (46%) of Britons backed restrictions on polluting vehicles, with less than a fifth opposed.

The survey, published today, revealed that:

  • Nearly half (46%) the population support restricting the use of certain cars, such as diesel, to combat air pollution in our towns and cities, with only 18 per cent opposed.
  • 39 per cent of people said they would support restrictions, even if it meant they or their family couldn’t use their own cars in those areas. Only 25 per cent said they opposed such measures.

The government has been mandated to produce a draft Air Quality Plan for the UK by 24 April after it was twice taken to court over the illegal levels of pollution in the country. Court action followed the UK’s consistent failure to comply with legal limits for the deadly gas NO2. Air pollution leads to 40,000 early deaths each year in the UK.

Friends of the Earth today (11 April) sets out its plan for clean air everywhere, outlining the steps the government must take to deal with the air pollution crisis.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to put in place:

  • A plan to end illegal pollution in 2018
  • A diesel scrappage scheme to help people shift to clean vehicles
  • Changes to road tax to deter diesel use
  • A comprehensive network of plug-in points for electric vehicles by 2025
  • Huge investment in public transport, walking and cycling routes
  • A new Clean Air Act for the whole country to curb all types of air pollution

Oliver Hayes, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said:

“Children’s lungs are growing at a slower rate – meaning they are smaller – because of the nation’s dirty air. Air pollution causes lung cancer and heart disease, worsens asthma and is linked to changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s. Clearly, for the sake of our health, the government has to get the UK’s dirty air problem under control, and fast.

“This is a gold-standard setting plan for what is needed to ensure clean air everywhere. We need tough action on the causes of pollution but also real incentives to help drivers get out of dirty diesels and into cleaner alternatives.

“It’s not acceptable if the government promises to clean up the air only in pollution hot-spots because everyone deserves to breathe clean air.”

Last month Friends of the Earth launched a nationwide citizen science air pollution experiment to help people find out more about the air they’re breathing. The environmental campaign group also revealed widespread support for financial incentives to encourage motorists to switch to cleaner vehicles.


For more information please contact Maria Castellina on 0207 566 1657 or contact the Friends of the Earth press office on 020 7566 1649/07718 394786 (out of hours – please don’t text this number),

Notes to editors:

1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,740 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd – 24th February 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

2. The YouGov poll for Friends of the Earth found that 46% support  (15% “strongly” and 31% “tend to”) restricting the use of certain cars (e.g. diesel cars) in order to combat air pollution in towns and cities. 18 % said they opposed such measures (7% “strongly” and 11% “tend to oppose”)

3. When asked: And to what extent do you support or oppose restricting the use of certain cars (e.g. diesel cars) in order to combat air pollution in towns and cities, even if it meant you/ your family could not use your cars in these areas? 39% said they supported restrictions (11 “strongly”. 28% “tend to support”) while 25% said they opposed the proposals (11% “strongly”, 14 “tend to oppose”).

4. Defra’s air quality plan shows the number of ‘air quality zones’ across the country breaching legal limits for NO2.

5. Last month Friends of the Earth launched a nationwide citizen science air pollution experiment to help people find out more about the air they’re breathing.

6. Friends of the Earth’s ‘Clean Air Kits’ enable people to test the air quality near them, as well as providing people with tips on how to avoid air pollution and what they can do to help support the fight for clean air. To order a Clean Air Kit visit.

7. 45% of motorists say they would be likely to switch to cleaner vehicle if government provided financial incentive.

8.About Friends of the Earth: For more than 40 years we’ve seen that the wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand – and it’s been the inspiration for our campaigns. Together with thousands of people like you we’ve secured safer food and water, defended wildlife and natural habitats, championed the move to clean energy and acted to keep our climate stable. Be a Friend of the Earth – see things differently. For further information visit, follow us at @wwwfoecouk, or like our Facebook page.


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