Government must use court defeat as spur to change its emission reduction policy

The FTA has said the government must now change tack in regards tackling emissions and stop penalising the road transport industry, after ClientEarth yesterday won its High Court action.

The environmental group began action against the government in April 2015 stating its plan to address emissions did not go far enough. Yesterday (2 November) the High Court agreed with ClientEarth.

FTA’s head of national and regional policy Christopher Snelling said: “No-one questions the need for better air quality in order to improve people’s health, but placing an unfair burden on the freight industry isn’t the answer.

The current Defra plan already sets in place targets in cities across the UK that will cost industry millions and could force small businesses out of their markets.  This is especially true for those relying on vans because there simply won’t be enough compliant vehicles [at Euro-6] to satisfy the need.”

The FTA said current air quality proposals already push beyond what many businesses can cope with.

“If faster progress in commercial vehicle fleet renewal and a switch to alternative fuel is to be made, it will have to be on the basis of support from the government,” said Snelling.

“But we can’t just consider commercial vehicles. The regulations Defra is looking at may have to take a broader approach to road transport, not shying away from issues such as the contribution of cars just because it is unpopular with voters.”

He added: “We know that, unlike cars, Euro-6 HGVs are meeting their emissions limits.  So as newer vehicles populate the fleet, the contribution from lorries will massively reduce anyway.  Further regulation of HGVs will only produce a very short blip of emissions reduction, at a massive cost to industry, especially small businesses.”

The government now has a week to draw up another plan before returning to court, where a High Court judge could impose a timetable if the new proposals are not deemed sufficient.

Concern over air quality has seen London mayor Sadiq Khan bring the timing of his plan to tackle the capital’s poor air quality forward.