Belfast Telegraph

Plea for vouchers to convert cars to use environmentally-friendly fuels

Motorists should be given vouchers to pay for high-emission cars to be converted to use environmentally-friendlier fuels, according to a think tank.

ResPublica claimed money raised from charging drivers to enter new clean air zones should be used to fund the retrofitting of old petrol cars to liquified petroleum gas (LPG) in locally targeted areas.

It said a similar scheme operates in southern California and would be better value for money than a national scrappage scheme.

A £10 increase in the cost of vehicle registration could also fund the project, according to the report.

Clean air zones are to be established in Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton, with charges, at a rate set by councils, for the most polluting vehicles to enter.

ResPublica said p ollution reduction vouchers worth £1,000 towards LPG conversions could also be used to buy a low-emission vehicle, car club membership, a bus or train season ticket or a bicycle, if old, high-emissions vehicles are scrapped.

The think tank's director, Phillip Blond, said: "The Government should be applauded for their efforts to reduce the toxic emissions which continue to pollute the air of Britain's cities and damage people's health.

"We must be careful, however, that any levies on drivers entering urban areas are not simply a congestion charge but are used instead to dramatically improve air quality.

"One key point must be that if we make the polluters pay, we should also use that money to help the owners of polluting cars and vehicles to offset refit costs in order to clean up their emissions."

Children, along with other groups such as the elderly and the ill, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of pollution, which is responsible for 30,000 to 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK.

The European Commission has issued a "final warning" to the Government for repeated breaches of legal air quality limits.

In November 2016 the High Court ordered the Government to produce a modified air quality plan to deliver compliance with European Union pollution limits in the shortest possible time, with new measures due to be announced by April 24.