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The Lobby – general discussion

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What’s on your mind today?


Thought for today

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

I feel a little sorry for Malcolm in these exchanges. His car purchases are historical, under different circumstances than the ones we face now. It emphasises the point that for all the ideal climate and pollution aims that we have, there has to be a starting point and that starting point is the here and now. I doubt many here would disagree with the facts presented – pollution is too high and needs to be reduced and climate change is already upon us and will get worse. Given that consensus the planning needs to be constructive. How do we expect those who have perfectly workable transport and house heating and those who travel the greatest distances to curb their travel and scrap their hardware? It is all very well to wring hands and point fingers, one must have a practical solution in place. To turn on the public and tell them to make instant changes is not a practical solution. They can not afford the outlay and good working equipment is being ditched when it has many years of use left in it. Replacements have to be made and supplied too. Is this being done? before we knock the public, the infrastructure has to change as well. That’s not happening very quickly.
If the argument is made that climate and pollution are so urgent that they can not wait for evolutionary change, then there has to be a national wartime effort in place, in which the government energises the manufacturers and concentrates on these industries at the expense of our general living standards and our little luxuries. There has to be a national industry that is solely devoted to house conversions and another that removes old cars and replaces them and provides transport for those in need. Another industry is needed to recycle all the equipment that is taken out of the houses and other buildings. Food has to be locally sourced and imported on line shopping discontinued.

You either change by evolution or you change by direct and immediate action there is no other way round. Protesters can clamour for change, but they then need to change places with the government and make it happen. Doing that would make them realise that shouting about it is the easy bit.

I’m for change by evolution, Vynor. Much that I would like to see the most polluting vehicles banned from the ULEZ, what would the owners of existing vehicles do? I don’t support the ‘pay to pollute’ charges but hopefully they will provide an incentive to replace these vehicles before long.

If the alternative to ULEZ charges is a ban on using, maybe even owning, a non-compliant vehicle if you live in the expanded ULEZ, that seems rather draconian and would be likely to attract strong opposition. What about those who live in the expanded ULEZ who might be visited by friends with a non-compliant car?

I’m not sure some “change by evolution” happens quickly enough. It hasn’t happened with climate change, pollution, clean energy, plastics, and other issues important to our future. These need proper plans putting in place and they need urging along; not just being allowed to happen at their own sweet pace.

I agree that pressure is needed to make progress and am disappointed that it has taken so long to address air pollution in our cities. Recall when UK industrial pollution, mainly electricity generation, was responsible for acid rain in other countries. This was one factor that resulted in desulphurisation of flue gases released by Drax and other large coal-fired power stations, resulting in a substantial decrease in sulphur dioxide emissions. The sulphur content of diesel, heating oil and petrol have also been reduced. Here is one of many articles about the way in which UK governments have failed to tackle air pollution in cities. It has been the EU rather than the UK that has been pushing for action in recent years.

Unfortunately we cannot rewrite history and action has been taken to introduce charges for driving non-compliant vehicles in the expanded London ULEZ. I would be interested to know what your alternative proposal would be, Malcolm. Should those who live in the ULEZ been warned that in a year or two they would no longer be able to use non-compliant vehicles? I don’t know the answer but support progressive change without unnecessary procrastination.

Yes, a decent warning of a ban on non-compliant vehicles should have been given, maybe with incentives, if we are serious about pollution in such a heavily populated area, where health is at significant risk. It is the responsibikty of individuals as well as public authorites to improve a particularly dangerous environment.

I doubt progressive change works adequately or quickly enough. But charging people to pollute in a ULEZ does not, somehow, seem appropriate.

The cost of repeated charging for residents would seem money better spent on a compliant vehicle.

Any government in the past ten years or more could have taken action that would have made the new ULEZ requirements much easier to introduce. Any action that removes personal choice is not popular and likely to result in vocal opposition. In the present circumstances I believe that ULEZ charging is a pragmatic solution and perhaps the charges will be raised to provide further encouragement to switch to cleaner cars.

I am no longer up-to-date on what is happening in London but it does seem to me that there is a natural limit to how many things the public authorities can change or introduce over a given period of years and to my mind they have done rather well in the capital with a mixture of carrots and sticks.

Hitting the population with heavy sticks started with Red Routes, then the congestion charge zone, followed by the low emission zone, and now an ultra-low emission zone. It is undoubtedly a shame that the proposed extensions to the congestion charge zone did not materialise for political reasons.

On the carrot side of the coin there have been extensions and enhancements of the Underground and Overground services [including, before the pandemic, the all-night Tube services] and the soon-to-arrive Crossrail. A great deal of bus and cycling priority measures have been implemented and there have been public transport fare freezes. There have also been controversial major highway improvements that have improved traffic flow and reduced the start-stop traffic tailbacks. A third runway at Heathrow airport has also been kicked into the long grass.

As ever, population levels are one of the intractable problems for which there is no short-term solution let alone a long-term aim. All the other ideas, worthy though they are in their own right, just seem like so much beating about the bush to make minor gains at the margins. Nevertheless, if that is all we have then we had better get on with it.

A figure of 4000 deaths due to air pollution is often quoted, but for everyone who dies, many more will suffer from ill health.

Many years ago London suffered from ‘pea souper’ fogs, due to the combined effect of soot and sulphur dioxide. This very obvious air pollution has been replaced by nitrogen dioxide, which cannot be seen but affects everyone, especially those with respiratory problems. The move to more efficient ‘lean burn’ engines for increased fuel economy has increased nitrogen dioxide emissions.

The introduction of the ULEZ, aided by congestion charging, has made a marked improvement in air quality but there is a long way to go. It’s not just London that has serious air quality problems and nitrogen dioxide from gas heating makes a significant contribution.

We do not know why some people are far less affected by air pollution than others, John.