Banning polluting vehicles more effective than charging for them, research finds
Cities across the UK should restrict traffic to tackle growing levels of air pollution, in particular by banning polluting vehicles rather than levying charges.
According to a new report by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), restricting polluting vehicles from cities can cut harmful particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution from traffic by up to 23% and 36% respectively
In contrast, charging such vehicles to enter cities can cut PM by up to 17% and NOx up to 12%.
The cost savings are also greater when it comes to outright bans on vehicles. The research sets out that the most populated cities could save up to an estimated €130m (£112m) in health and other costs per year for banning the most polluting vehicles, compared to an estimated saving of €95m (£82m) for charging for them.
The report also suggests that restricting public parking, either by cost or availability, is a highly effective way for authorities to cut vehicle usage. In the few cases it has been used specifically to cut pollution, it achieved 5-10% cuts, the researchers found.
Other measures such as creating zones for cycling and walking can prove expensive, particularly in dense cities, relative to the small gains. And publicly subsidised commercial car sharing schemes, such as those in Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne, did little to bring down pollution and only make sense in the biggest cities, according to the report’s researchers, CE Delft. Such schemes can also end up competing with public transport and increase pollution if shared vehicles are old.
The research has been published as a number of cities in the UK push ahead with introducing Clean Air Zones. Bath’s ‘Class C’ CAZ – the first outside London – went live on 15 March 2021, targeting vans but not private cars, and will be shortly joined by other CAZs in England, including Birmingham’s scheme, which was delayed to June 2021 because of concerns of the impact of the pandemic.
The EPHA added that mayors should adopt a range of measures appropriate to their cities, with effective options available no matter the budget level.
According to the European Environment Agency, PM, NO₂ and O₃ cause about 40,000 Brits to die early, while a 2020 study for the EPHA found that dirty air costs Brits £850 per year on average, mainly in health, lost work days and early death.
To access the EPHA report, click here.