Greenpeace UK

Subscribe to Greenpeace UK feed Greenpeace UK
Greenpeace defends the natural world and promotes peace by investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse, and championing solutions. Learn more and join us!
Updated: 8 min 16 sec ago

The government’s new Clean Air Strategy – what’s wrong with it?

Tue, 2019-01-15 16:16

Amid our growing air pollution crisis the Government have today announced their grand plan to tackle air pollution. In it are welcome recognition of the scale of the problem and levels of ambition. However there are clear gaps in their plan that make this yet another failed opportunity.

We all know the facts – air pollution is a scourge which cuts short an estimated 40,000 lives across our country every year. It costs the UK an annual £20 billion and disportionately impacts the most vulnerable in our society – the young, the sick and the elderly. This is a crisis we urgently need to get a handle on.

So the fact this plan has good ambition on some of the causes of air pollution is worth welcoming. The Government’s goal to work towards World Health Organisation (WHO) standards is important, as is their target to halve the population exposed to particulate matter (PM) exceeding these WHO guidelines. Unfortunately, beyond this, the ambition isn’t married with the tangible measures and specifics we need to tackle this crisis. For example the plan commits to “introduce new legislation to prohibit the sale of the most polluting fuels” yet it gives no specifics on how the Government will do this or how they will incentivise and support the public to transition away from polluting fuels.

Crucially the strategy has a key omission – road transport. We know petrol and diesel vehicles, through their Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions, are a major cause of the problem. This is how most people in urban environments are being exposed to dangerous pollution, whether through driving, using public transport, walking, cycling, or living or working nearby. Yet this strategy eschews NOx, focusing instead on other pollutants like PM – despite the fact that the High Court has ordered the Government to solve the crisis within the quickest possible timescale. This demonstrates a clear lack of joined up thinking within the Government across departments. On the one hand we have the Department of Environment and Health saying today they are committed to tackling air pollution. On the other we have the Department for Transport saying little on the issue whilst pursuing measures, including road building and the third runway at Heathrow, which will make air pollution worse.

The solutions are out there, we just need the government to grasp them. The government should aim to phase out diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030. Whilst they currently have a 2040 date in mind this lacks the necessary ambition to truly tackle our air pollution crisis. Moving to a 2030 target would bring us in line with nations such as Ireland, Israel and India and would have the twin benefit of tackling our toxic air whilst also cutting our carbon emissions.

Alongside this we need to see the introduction of clean air zones across our country, which would restrict the most polluting cars and vans from urban centres. London is leading the way on these but air pollution is a national issue. With 40 cities and towns across the UK already breaching legal air pollution limits we need to see the Government push clean air zones up and down the nation. The government’s own analysis says this is the most cost-effective way to tackle the problem. This would require the Government to show more leadership in supporting councils to deal with air pollution. Local authorities don’t necessarily need new powers to tackle air pollution; rather government needs to instruct key councils to establish clean air zones, rather than making this an optional measure, and provide the right funding to match. In addition, local authorities should be given more support to invest in local transport, and must roll out diesel scrappage schemes to help drivers of more polluting vehicles, especially at the poorer end of society, to switch to cleaner options.

Finally, an effective clean air strategy would tackle one of the key actors in this issue – car companies. By making polluting car companies like VW pay into clean air funds and a polluter pay scheme, we can start to clean up our air and compensate those whose lives have been damaged by their polluting vehicles.

Again it’s worth reiterating that the government are saying all the right things. They’re recognising the huge human and financial cost of air pollution. They’re showing laudable ambition to tackle it. But the Government has already been taken to court three times under EU laws over roadside air pollution and so without legislation and actual targets or specifics, these ambitions are only words. Until there are real, tangible plans to transform our  transport system and ensure a joined up approach across Government we will remain locked into this crisis. That will have an all too deadly cost for far too many in our society.

The post The government’s new Clean Air Strategy – what’s wrong with it? appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

10 Green New Year’s Resolutions for the Government

Mon, 2019-01-07 14:27
We still don’t know exactly what the government and leading political parties have in store for the environment this year, but so far, they have all been falling short of where we need to be. That’s why we took the liberty of writing up ten New Year’s resolutions we need them to adopt in 2019. 

2018 was a sobering year for our climate and the environment. The UN’s stark warning that we have 12 years left to limit climate catastrophe was preceded by countless extreme weather events and swiftly followed by the worrying finding that over half of vertebrates species globally have been killed off in less than 50 years. The urgency of the crisis we are facing could not be clearer.

The effort employed to effect change last year was far more than should have been necessary for the small steps that were taken. They included the UK Government committing to look into a net zero emissions target, city mayors in London, Manchester and Bristol starting to step up to the climate emergency, renewables achieving a record share of our electricity supply, and the Government increasing funding to decarbonise heavy industry.  

Indeed, governments across the world failed completely to act with the ambition, pace and vision so desperately required. We need only look at the frustrating outcome of the international climate conference in December as an example. Despite all the fanfare, little progress was made at COP24 to increase countries’ commitments to cut emissions – and as a result, the world remains on track for 3C of warming.   

So, as we turn a new leaf into 2019, the words of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg seem to ring true as a message to those in power: “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself.”

Greenpeace however, is as focused as always on what needs to be done now and the measures against which we must unwaveringly judge our politicians to deliver this year.

Here are the top 10 things the Government and all major UK political parties must commit to in 2019 – at a minimum – to stand a chance of a cleaner, fairer and more peaceful future:

  1. Triple renewable energy generation in the 2020s from genuinely sustainable sources (wind, water, solar) – this means increasing funding for renewables rather than taking it away, introducing more competitive auctions to distribute the funds, unblocking planning restrictions, and boosting skills training so workers in declining industries can move into cleaner jobs.
  2. No new airport runways and introduce a frequent flier levy – we need to face up to the fact that growing emissions from flying do not fit with our long term climate obligations. A frequent flier levy would be a socially just system for curbing our aviation emissions.
  3. Ban fracking – it pollutes our environment, it’s incompatible with climate targets, and it’s not necessary for energy security.
  4. Properly protect the public from air pollution and significantly invest in public transport restrict the most polluting diesels cars and vans from city centres, roll out a national scrappage scheme so drivers can swap to cleaner solutions, introduce legal targets for air pollution in line with World Health Organisation standards, and redirect funds from HS2 and the new road building programme to expand and electrify the rail network and boost public transport in towns and cities, especially beyond the South East.
  5. Dramatically increase the roll-out of electric vehicles – bring forward the target for all new cars and vans to be electric from 2040 to 2030, introduce a comprehensive package to retrain and reskill workers in the auto industry, increase leadership in expanding charging infrastructure, and increase public sector procurement of electric vehicles.
  6. Boost energy efficiency and start decarbonising our heating – introduce a zero carbon standard for all new buildings, make energy efficiency in existing buildings an infrastructure priority and provide funding to match, and increase investment in large scale heat trials over the next 6 months to test solutions.
  7. Reduce waste from plastic and other materials, and promote a genuinely circular economy – introduce a UK-wide deposit return scheme for drinks containers of all materials and sizes, ban problem plastics, make corporate producers of waste pay for 100% of disposal costs and commit to eliminating single-use packaging in the 2020s.
  8. Protect and restore the health of our oceans – both within and beyond the UK’s jurisdiction – implement a strongly protected Blue Belt in UK waters, don’t cave to industry and instead stick to the science when it comes to setting sustainable fishing limits, lead in negotiating an ambitious UN Global Oceans Treaty and continue to fight to protect the Antarctic.
  9. Restore nature in our countryside and set up a sustainable, local food system – legislate to reallocate agricultural payments to farmers who protect and enhance nature and use sustainable,agroecological methods, return soils to a healthy level, improve the quality of habitats, and help struggling fishing communities by redistributing fishing quota to local, more sustainable fishers.
  10. Guarantee that no gaps in environmental protections are opened up through Brexit – make the enforcement of the environmental principles legally binding for all future policies and set up a new green watchdog with sufficient funding and independence from government to robustly enforce environmental law.  

By taking up these actions over the next year, UK politicians would set us on the right track for achieving net zero emissions in the future, and restoring nature back to sustainable levels. Unfortunately, all of the main political parties currently fall short against this standard – so we have our work cut out to push for action over the next year. Here’s to a radical and ambitious 2019! 

Want to help these messages reach the highest level of government? We are looking for passionate and determined volunteers to join our UK Political Lobbying Network. Learn more and register today

The post 10 Green New Year’s Resolutions for the Government appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News