The Sun and the air
Today, the Sun launched a campaign to scrap diesel cars, and to compensate diesel drivers for new restrictions on their vehicles.
As you know, we’re campaigning for urgent action to reduce air pollution across the UK and diesel fumes are a huge part of the problem. So it is great to see The Sun come forward with a big campaign which highlights the damage caused by diesel.
We’re seeing more and more media attention on the harmful effects of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants found in diesel fumes. This Guardian article looks at the history of why British drivers were encouraged to buy diesel vehicles. Meanwhile, Islington Council have just introduced a policy to stop drivers idling (leaving the engine running when at a standstill).
All of this comes as a surprise to some diesel drivers, who have been encouraged by successive governments to buy diesel cars. Diesel was considered a “greener” fuel because it produced less carbon emissions than petrol, thereby helping to tackle climate change. However, this ignored the public health impact of diesel’s higher emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide – two pollutants linked to a number of serious health impacts. The World Health Organisation has stated that air pollution causes cancer, while there’s mounting evidence of how traffic fumes can exacerbate many health problems, such as asthma. Policymakers are finally starting to realise they need to address this.
However, the Sun points out that this turnaround is hard on the drivers who thought they were making the “greener” choice by buying diesel vehicles and were encouraged by government tax policies that made them cheaper to run.
The bottom line is that we need to clean up pollution from diesel vehicles in our towns and cities to protect everyone’s health. But drivers also need to have practical alternatives so that they can leave their diesel car in the garage. This is why the Healthy Air Campaign calls for a national network of low emission zones, together with better, cleaner public transport and improved cycling and walking routes. The launch of today’s Sun campaign is more proof that this is an issue whose time has come. The Government ‘s silence is louder than ever.