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Government seeks new standards for vehicle tyres and brakes to tackle pollution

Government seeks new standards for vehicle tyres and brakes to tackle pollution

New standards for vehicle tyres and brakes to tackle particulate emissions from non-exhaust sources could be developed as part of the government’s newly published draft ‘Clean Air Strategy’.

However, with transport receiving little mention in the report and road transport virtually ignored, influential MPs said the Strategy lacked “ambition and innovation” to cut vehicle emissions and reduce reliance on cars.

The 104-page strategy published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs outlines the government’s ambitions relating to reducing air pollution in the round, making the air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy.

The strategy sits alongside three other UK government strategies: its Industrial Strategy, Clean Growth Strategy and 25 Year Environment Plan.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Government cannot act alone in tackling air pollution. Our strategy sets out how we will work with businesses, farmers, industry and households to develop innovative new solutions to reduce emissions. It also highlights how we can all take action and playing an important role in cleaning up our air.”

In referring to working with international partners to research and develop new standards for tyres and brakes to enable the government to address toxic non-exhaust emissions of micro plastics from vehicles which can pollute air and water, the Strategy says: “Particulate emissions from non-exhaust sources are a result of the friction required for braking and maintaining traction on the road, which are essential for road safety.

“However, these particles are harmful to human health and the environment - and a source of microplastics in our oceans. The proportion of total emissions from non-exhaust sources has increased because of action to reduce emissions from other sources, including vehicle exhaust emission standards.”

As a result, the government is undertaking a call for evidence on tyre and brake wear and then plans to develop new international regulations for particulate emissions from tyres and brakes through the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Transport is a significant source of emissions of air pollution, but the document, which is out to public consultation until 14 August, is covered in only a handful of pages with road transport barely mentioned.

That’s because the government, last year, published its ‘UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations’ and says it is already investing £3.5 billion to reduce emissions from transport, cleaning up the air.

Additionally, it will shortly publish ‘Road to Zero’, its strategy for reducing exhaust emissions from road vehicles.

Furthermore, the government has also announced that in the wake of the Volkswagen Group’s emission ‘cheating’ scandal, it is introducing new regulations that will enhance existing powers concerning vehicles with a prohibited defeat device. They are expected to be in place for cars, vans, motorcycles, tractors and non-road mobile machinery before the summer.

The papers accompanying the draft Clean Air Strategy also make clear that there are ‘small changes’ individuals can make today to reduce exposure to air pollution. They include:
  • Not using a car as often for short journeys
  • Turning off the car engine when parking or waiting in traffic as idling can have a significant localised effect on air quality.
Chairman of the House of Commons Transport Committee Lilian Greenwood said: “Our recent joint select committee report called for ambitious, co-ordinated, cross-departmental action yet the new draft Strategy says virtually nothing about emissions from cars. It’s unclear to me why the Strategy to reduce emissions from road transport is not included today and will be published separately. It doesn’t seem very joined-up.

“Modal shift and active travel hardly get a mention. We need to have cleaner vehicles but we should also encourage different travel choices so we can reduce the total number of vehicles on our roads. Investment in low-emissions buses is welcome but is even better if accompanied by a package of measures that will help people to make the choice to use them rather than their cars. The lack of focus on transport emissions looks complacent.

“It seems that today’s announcement lacks the ambition and innovation that is desperately needed to cut vehicle emissions and, more importantly, reduce our reliance on cars. From a transport point of view, I feel this strategy falls well short of what we recommended in our report.”

Agreement came from Neil Parish, chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, who said the Strategy “falls short of what is required” and added: “The lack of attention paid to improving public transport is particularly troubling, as it is crucial to reduce the need for private vehicles in urban air quality hotspots. I hope that the Government will listen to the consultation responses and publish a more ambitious set of measures as soon as possible.”

The draft Clean Air Strategy can be accessed at: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environmental-quality/clean-air-strategy-consultation/.