Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection (NSCA) (U4)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

  NSCA highlights the need for action on climate change in two areas. Firstly, there is a need for local authorities to become more fully engaged in climate change, through a mechanism which encourages elected members and officers to tackle local greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, vehicle emissions remain a major challenge, and the UK should use its forthcoming chairmanship of the EU to introduce maximum standards for carbon emissions from vehicles.

INTRODUCTION

  1.  NSCA brings together organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors to promote a balanced and innovative approach to understanding and solving environmental problems. It also provides the Secretariat for the Cleaner Transport Forum, a cross-sectoral body addressing cleaner vehicle technologies and fuels.

  2.  NSCA is both active and influential in the fields of air quality, noise, land quality, local environment management, and industrial regulation. It is a registered charity with over 100 years experience of environmental campaigning, public information provision and policy formulation.

  3.  Generally, the Society welcomes evidence of a tougher British and European stance against the US administration's hostility to the Kyoto treaty, and hopes for more concerted pressure when the UK takes over the chair in both the EU and the G8 group of major industrial states next year. However, if the UK is to show international leadership, it needs to demonstrate real commitment at home to practical measures which address carbon emissions. NSCA has specific recommendations for two important policy areas, outlined below.

LOCAL AUTHORITY ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

  4.  NSCA is recognised for its contribution to Air Quality Management policy in the UK, particularly in promoting consistent policy, legislation and guidance, and assisting local authorities in implementing their statutory duties. Many of the measures required to improve air quality impact upon measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, either negatively or positively.

  5.  Local authorities are well placed to significantly influence greenhouse gas emissions, not merely from their own practices but, through their policies, from the activities and practices of others. For example, development control and planning policy can be used to influence the energy use by new developments. Transportation policies can encourage the use of alternative fuels and the greater use of public transport. Housing and other social policies can have a major impact on domestic energy use. Local authorities can even become suppliers of "green" energy, or example through the private wire network in Woking.

  6.  However, local authorities do not have explicit targets, or a Statutory Duty, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There are obligations are implicit in, for example, the requirements for improving home energy conservation and implementation of Local Transport Plans, and wider powers to promote sustainable development. Many local authorities have already made commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (eg the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change) and some have taken part in the Councils for Climate Protection pilot scheme, which the Government is hoping to roll out to all nationally, on a voluntary basis. Some local authorities are also working with other agencies, such as the Environment Agency/Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, to assess the future impact of climate change upon their local environment.

  7.  The success of the local air quality management process has highlighted the ability of local authorities to produce local inventories of emissions, and to prepare action plans to reduce those emissions. This model could usefully be applied to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at a local scale, adding a new and potentially powerful dimension to the UK climate change programme. A number of UK local authorities are enthusiastically pursuing energy and climate change policies. Others have signalled a willingness to take action. But in the absence of a clear statutory duty to act, many more are reluctant to go beyond their minimum responsibilities.

  8.  NSCA's view is that there is a need for a mechanism which provides a focus for local authority led action, identifies key members and officers with responsibility for climate change, and communicates current best practice. We recommend the establishment of a Standing Conference on Local Authority Response to Climate Change, as a partnership of local authority bodies and relevant Government Departments. Crucially, local authorities should be invited by Government to nominate a senior member and officer with overall responsibility for climate change co-ordination within their authority, identifying local champions for action on climate change.

VEHICLE EMISSIONS

  9.  It is clear that the much of the potential for low-carbon vehicle technologies and design improvements remains unexploited. The latest data from the EU Voluntary Agreement on reducing CO2 emissions from cars suggests that the agreement may fail to meet its objectives over the agreed timescale. The current Voluntary Agreement is based on an average emission figure across the whole range of passenger cars. The full potential for CO2 reductions cannot be achieved because increasing sales of highly efficient small cars are counterbalanced by the continuing expansion of the luxury and SUV market. Furthermore, because the larger vehicles tend to travel more distance, even if the planned reduction in the average tailpipe emissions is achieved under the current Voluntary Agreement, this will not produce a reduction in actual fleet emissions.

  10.  NSCA is concerned that the voluntary approach is failing to deliver emissions reductions at an acceptable level. We note that the Californian Air Resources Board (CARB) is proposing to introducing maximum CO2 emission standards for vehicles[1], and believe that a similar approach should be considered by the EU. We note that in other sectors, market transformation in energy efficiency is driven by setting minimum efficiency standards, supplemented by other fiscal and information measures. We believe that it is time to signal the need for minimum standards for passenger cars, which could be introduced from 2010 at, say, 300 g/km, and further reduced (for instance to 250 g/km by 2015 and 200 g/km by 2020). Cars already meet minimum standards for noise and pollutants such as NOx and PM10, and it does not seem unreasonable to set CO2 limits, as long as industry is given sufficient notice. We therefore recommended that the UK should use its chairmanship of the EU to secure agreement on the phased introduction of maximum CO2 equivalent standards for passenger cars and other road vehicles.

  11.  Maximum vehicle emission standards must be complemented by effective fiscal measures and consumer information. Our position on fiscal measures is straightforward; we recommend that vehicle excise duty (VED) should be more steeply raked in favour of energy efficient cars.

  12.  On consumer information, NSCA has been campaigning for an effective car energy label, based on the A-G banded EU label now used on electrical goods. The Department for Transport has developed proposals, including a pilot trial, which demonstrated the potential for such a label, and has promoted the concept successfully at EU level where . Recently the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership has taken up the issue.

  13. We welcome the willingness of UK car manufacturers to work in partnership to develop a labelling system, but the approach currently being adopted is disappointing. The industry has offered a voluntary agreement to introduce a label, but only on an A-F banding scale. This would be linked to VED bands (which we support), but the proposed scale leaves a large proportion of the high-emitting vehicle market undifferentiated. There is also a concern that a voluntary scheme will not be adopted enthusiastically by car dealers, and may not be enforced effectively. We recommend that statutory backing be given to an A-G car energy label as soon as possible.

22 September 2004




1   The CARB paper is on www.arb.ca.gov/regact/grnhsgas/isor.pdf Back


 
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