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Ed Davey calls for £20bn Community Clean Air Fund as part of urgent action to save lives and fast-track climate-friendly transport

April 23, 2021 6:11 PM
Originally published by Newcastle upon Tyne Liberal Democrats

Ed Davey, Leader of the Lib DemsUrgent action is needed to save tens of thousands of lives from transport fumes and to fast-track climate-friendly transport. Liberal Democrats Leader, Ed Davey MP, argues his party's plan for massive new investment in clean air action would be a "treble dividend" for a local community's health, environment and economy.

With air pollution causing 40,000 early deaths a year and transport now the country's biggest source of carbon emissions, the Liberal Democrats are making a boost to the nation's health a key part of their strategy to tackle the climate emergency too.

During a visit to Watford today ahead of May's elections, Ed Davey MP unveiled the Liberal Democrats' proposals for a £20bn Community Clean Air fund - part of the party's £150 billion Green Economic Recovery Plan. The fund would enable Councils and communities to spearhead a local transport revolution, to improve people's transport choices.

Arguing local air pollution is a "health emergency" alongside the climate emergency, Liberal Democrats see the Community Clean Air Fund as enabling local councils to develop new 3 year clean air programmes, linked to their community's specific transport challenges.

The Liberal Democrats' £20 billion Community Clean Air Fund will target all transport emissions affecting local communities and the climate, with emergency 3 year plans to transform people's local transport options, including:

* £5bn to restore bus routes and add new routes

Liberal Democrats would give local authorities more powers to commission their own bus routes as well as removing restrictions on councils being able to set up their own municipal bus companies.

This money would help undo the damage the Tories have done to buses over the last six years, help support vital, but unprofitable routes and add new bus routes.

* £5.5bn to create new walking and cycling routes

Liberal Democrats would give local authorities more funding to encourage more walking and cycling. The pandemic has seen increases in both walking and cycling and councils must be supported to build more cycleways and improve pavements.

Alongside this must be a nationwide campaign from central government to promote walking and cycling across the country.

* £4.5bn for new light rail and tram projects

Liberal Democrats would give local authorities more powers to build mass transit systems as well as more powers to borrow in order to be able to build these systems themselves.

This money would support the initial scoping out of projects in towns and cities that are considering new light rail or tram projects.

Liberal Democrats want to avoid the problem where local authorities need central government support to build these projects.

This has led to the City of Leeds considering a wide variety of transport options, from trams to trolleybuses, with central government committing then cancelling the projects.

Leeds is now one of the largest cities in Europe without a mass transit system.

* £2bn to support converting buses to hydrogen or electric power

This money will be provided to local authorities to help support their local bus companies with the initial capital cost of replacing or upgrading their buses to low emission vehicles.

Local authorities could provide this money in the form of low or zero interest loans to the more profitable routes run by private companies, or in the form of grants to less profitable routes, but that provide vital services.

* £2bn for new clean air zones in congested towns and cities.

Liberal Democrats would give local authorities more powers to easily create new Clean Air Zones - modelled on the successful clean zone Liberal Democrat run Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council have introduced this year.

As part of funding given to Councils, coach companies and taxi drivers would be given support to replace polluting vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones. This would ensure small businesses and the self-employed also benefit.

* £1bn for additional electric vehicle charging points

This money would support the construction of more charging points for EVs as the UK aims to phase out new sales of petrol and diesel cars in the next 10 to 15 years.

Ed Davey says the Liberal Democrats want an economic recovery that creates local jobs in the clean, climate businesses and technologies of the future, with a focus on tackling local and global air pollution:

"Air pollution is an invisible enemy threatening the community spaces we love and the people we care most about. It kills thousands of people every year and affects the quality of life for all of us. At the same time, air pollution is threatening our world, with climate change.

"After the experience of the pandemic, people want action focused on their community and know that bold action for clean air could bring huge health and environmental benefits - and help kickstart the green recovery and the new jobs we all know are so desperately needed.

"Our Community Clean Air Fund would let councils and communities invest in the transport systems and options they need, rather than Whitehall and Westminster dictating what's right.

"The Conservatives' failure to act is shown by the fact that the UK regularly breaks legal limits on air quality in so many towns and cities, and yet Conservative Council after Conservative Council are running away from taking action to clean the air for local people.

"Conservative Councils and councillors are even voting against local climate emergency plans and blocking new cycling routes.

"Liberal Democrat councils are acting and getting things done. From Lib Dem run Bath Council introducing a clean air zone in the city centre to the Lib Dem Mayor of Watford pioneering new pay-as-you-go bikes, people can see it's the Liberal Democrats leading on clean air and the climate."

In the UK, air pollution from nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulates, and ozone (O3) cause 40,000 early deaths each year. Since 2010, the UK has broken the legal limits for NO2 every year. Road transport is responsible for 80% of roadside NO2.

The Tories have been weak, patchy, slow and unambitious. The Government cannot even do the minimum to comply with EU legal limits. It has been taken to court three times and lost on each occasion, but still fails to produce a comprehensive response. The Government has continued to cut grants available for people wishing to buy electric vehicles and has failed to invest adequately in public transport.

The transport sector is now responsible for the biggest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Around 28% of the UK's emissions come from transport (excluding aviation and shipping, which are counted separately).

* £5bn to restore bus routes and add new routes

Liberal Democrats would give local authorities more powers to commission their own bus routes as well as removing restrictions on councils being able to set up their own municipal bus companies.

This money would help undo the damage the Tories have done to buses over the last six years, help support vital, but unprofitable routes and add new bus routes.

* £5.5bn to create new walking and cycling routes

Liberal Democrats would give local authorities more funding to encourage more walking and cycling. The pandemic has seen increases in both walking and cycling and councils must be supported to build more cycleways and improve pavements.

Alongside this must be a nationwide campaign from central government to promote walking and cycling across the country.

* £4.5bn for new light rail and tram projects

Liberal Democrats would give local authorities more powers to build mass transit systems as well as more powers to borrow in order to be able to build these systems themselves.

This money would support the initial scoping out of projects in towns and cities that are considering new light rail or tram projects.

Liberal Democrats want to avoid the problem where local authorities need central government support to build these projects.

This has led to the City of Leeds considering a wide variety of transport options, from trams to trolleybuses, with central government committing then cancelling the projects.

Leeds is now one of the largest cities in Europe without a mass transit system.

* £2bn to support converting buses to hydrogen or electric power

This money will be provided to local authorities to help support their local bus companies with the initial capital cost of replacing or upgrading their buses to low emission vehicles.

Local authorities could provide this money in the form of low or zero interest loans to the more profitable routes run by private companies, or in the form of grants to less profitable routes, but that provide vital services.

* £2bn for new clean air zones in congested towns and cities.

Liberal Democrats would give local authorities more powers to easily create new Clean Air Zones - modelled on the successful clean zone Liberal Democrat run Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council have introduced this year.

As part of funding given to Councils, coach companies and taxi drivers would be given support to replace polluting vehicles with cleaner, compliant ones. This would ensure small businesses and the self-employed also benefit.

* £1bn for additional electric vehicle charging points

This money would support the construction of more charging points for EVs as the UK aims to phase out new sales of petrol and diesel cars in the next 10 to 15 years.