UK Air Pollution: Everyone’s Responsibility

As the European commission issues a final warning to the U.K. (and other nations) over missed air pollution targets, how are the government and the private sector planning to reduce emissions and improve air quality in the UK?

Many will not be surprised that London, Birmingham, Leeds and other urban areas top the list of offenders for repeatedly breaching limits for toxins such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is associated with thousands of premature deaths each year.

Older Cars to pay extra £10 Charge.

Despite a pro-diesel agenda in the recent past, the consensus is starting to turn against the high polluting vehicles.

The Mayor of London has announced a so-called T-Charge (Toxic Charge) which will make some vehicles subject to an extra £10 charge on top of the congestion charge when driving in London.

Designed to improve the air quality in the capital -which has already surpassed its 2017 limit for air quality just two months into the year- diesel cars manufactured before 2005 will pay the extra fee for not meeting the Euro 4 emissions standard for Nitrogen Oxide (NO2). It is believed up to 10,000 vehicles could be affected, just 7% of those using the congestion zone, although some say the impact it will have on pollution levels will be “negligible” at between 1%-3%.

There have been calls for the government to set up a scrappage scheme similar to the one from a few years ago (when drivers were encouraged to switch to newer and diesel-fuelled cars) to help drivers purchase newer, more efficient cars.

Transport for London have set up a tool on their website for drivers to check how much they will have to pay to drive in the capital:

Reducing Environmental Impact & Energy Waste

While diesel engines are a significant contributor to U.K. Emissions, it’s not the only source.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2results from burning fossil fuels including coal, oil and gas.  Therefore, heating domestic and commercial premises also adds to the emissions tally.

The private sector has a responsibility to also change its attitude towards air pollution and recognised their indirect effects, which are often overlooked.

Recent regulations such as ESOS have focused on large corporates and mainly their directly controlled impacts.

However all businesses can implement management systems to baseline, control and improve their environmental and energy performance.

“Small gains make a big difference”

Sustainable Construction Transport

One industry taking an innovative approach to its emissions is construction.

Transport is a necessary part of most projects and makes a considerable contribution to its carbon footprint.

In a nostalgic throw back to our industrial past, construction firms in London have been using the river Thames as an effective means to transport materials to site.  This takes traffic, including high polluting diesel trucks off the roads and avoids the expected charges and fines for using the highways.

Balfour Beatty provides one example of this during the rebuilding of Blackfriars’ where it estimates 14,000 tonnes of material was transported to site, and 9,000 removed; while St Martins’ the Chambers Wharf development in Southwark estimated it had reduced its carbon footprint by 75 per cent using barges to transport more than 50,000 tonnes of crushed concrete and steel.

Taking your first Steps to a Cleaner Future

Our Consultants help clients audit their energy use, calculate carbon footprints and design a programme to manage overall environmental impacts.

We can help you design a bespoke project or implement recognised standards including ISO 14001 for Environmental Management and ISO 50001 for Energy Management.


Robert Clements
Robert Clements
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