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Clearing the air

Kevin Minton, CPA’s Chief Executive, believes it is important that our industry responds to the Government consultation on the forthcoming Clean Air Strategy.

In May, the Government published its Clean Air Strategy, showing how it intends to tackle air pollution. The Strategy and its associated consultation are not just about theory and good principles: there will be legislation and budgetary measures to drive it forward, which may have serious impacts on the construction plant and equipment industry. The final Strategy and detailed National Air Pollution Control Programme are expected to be published by March 2019, so it is important that all sectors respond now to the consultation, which is open until 14 August.

The Strategy considers all sources of air pollution, including road transport, construction plant and some smaller equipment including household machinery such as lawn mowers. In England, there will be new powers to control major sources of air pollution, in line with the risk they pose to public health and the environment, plus local authority powers to take action. These will support the creation of Clean Air Zones to lower emissions from all sources, backed up with clear enforcement mechanisms.

Existing European legislation is already making engine manufacturers upgrade their products, through Stages or Tiers of emission reduction levels. The Government also intends to introduce compliance checks, to ensure actual equipment emissions are within a specified tolerance of the regulated maximum level enforced when new. The technology is being developed now and has already shown differences between laboratory testing and ‘real world’ emissions.

Another proposal with implications is the establishing of a register of off-road machinery to enable local enforcement including, where appropriate, information on retro-fitted equipment and compliance checks, together with an emissions labelling scheme.

A risk is that decisions may be made by local authorities in a way that does not reflect the availability of the latest engines or alternative fuels. Unlike the GLA (Greater London Authority), which has taken a pragmatic and consultative approach, councils may be more


motivated by elements of virtue signalling or comparison with other regions. Local authorities are already responding: Birmingham launched public consultation (until 17 August) on its Clean Air Zone, supported by statistics suggesting air pollution is responsible for the early deaths of nearly 900 people in the city annually. The proposal is that anything older than Euro 6 diesel vehicles, or Euro 4 petrol vehicles, would pay to enter within one mile of the city centre.

Clients and contractors may follow the example of local authorities, but might not apply geographical boundaries. Some contractors have previously implemented a policy of ‘if you can do it in London, you can do it everywhere’. Coupled with a failure to allow sufficient time for a pricing structure for newer equipment to be embedded in contracts, this could be harmful for businesses unable to upgrade fleets quickly.

Is red diesel to blame?

Under the Clean Air Strategy, local authorities could introduce their own measures to control emissions from construction tasks and other activities.

DEFRA and the Treasury are also seeking evidence on the uses of red diesel, mainly in urban areas, considering air quality and the potential for market distortion. The survey ostensibly asks whether the current rebate scheme for red diesel is affecting owners’

decisions about equipment and technology replacement. In addition, the Treasury will review how alternative fuel rates of taxation line up with rates of petrol and diesel ahead of the Budget in 2018, so changes to the rebate can already be forecast.

The call for evidence asks about the power source of machinery, its age, replacement programmes and consideration of alternative technologies. CPA surveyed its Members to make its position known to DEFRA and the Treasury when the consultation closed in July. Early responses show that buying decisions are influenced primarily by availability, capital cost and return on equipment. The actual fuel use has little or no impact on owners’ or contractors’ preferences. There is time for individual business and trade bodies to respond to the current phase of consultation on the Strategy - go to strategy-consultation/

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