In response to the Government’s announcement that it will ban new diesel and petrol cars from UK roads by 2040, Professor Hugh Coe, Professor of Atmospheric Composition at The University of Manchester, says:
“This story is not unexpected. The Government has been receiving some harsh criticism for not acting or addressing the clean air issue sooner.
“It is a problem that clearly needs tackling. Estimates say poor air quality costs the UK economy close to £3billion per year and leads to 40,000 premature deaths per annum. And air quality in many of our cities is extremely poor with Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and atmospheric particulates being the main causes.
“The primary health problems we know that come from poor air quality are heart disease and poor lung function. But infant development, cognitive function and other diseases have also been linked to air pollution, but not yet well proven.
“So, the long term aim of removing polluting vehicles is a good one, but short term measures are also required…and quickly.
“The Government also wants local authorities to play their part and address these issues as well. For example, such as through a number of key traffic corridors across many cities in the UK. This will include improving traffic congestion and easing the constant flow of traffic since acceleration enhances NO2 emissions significantly
“The measures will also include encouraging cycling and retrofitting NO2 filters from vehicles. However, such removal mechanisms don’t always work, particularly on cold starts and at cold temperatures.
“Plus, after major interventions by previous Governments, trust isn’t always high. Remember, people bought diesel cars in good faith since these reduce the CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. But we now know this comes at the expense of greater NO2 emissions.”
Professor Hugh Coe is Professor of Atmospheric Composition in The University of Manchester’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester and a leading expert in air pollution.