Bristol’s Diesel Ban: Environmental Breakthrough or Economic Blunder?

The City of Bristol continues in its efforts to combat climate change with talks of issuing a diesel ban to certain areas of the city by 2021. Bristol is notorious for its terrible congestion, and if you commute by car, you already know this. What you may not know is that the city has been suffering from poor air quality for years, especially from high levels of nitrous oxide. Local MPs have addressed the problem, and they have proposed that all diesel run vehicles should be denied access to specific areas of the city between 7am and 3pm. Taxis will be charged £9 to enter between the allocated times, whilst HGVs will be charged a staggering £100. The question that is currently open for debate is whether this figure is actually that staggering. £100 per HGV won’t even dent larger corporate companies, and in the grand scheme of things (the grand scheme of saving the planet), is £100 that much? Think of it as an elaborate version of the 5p carrier bag if you’d like. 

With regards to saving the planet these are still only baby steps. Saying that, a council spokesman said the move “will deliver the fastest possible improvement in air quality against targets for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) legal limits”. The council are meeting to debate this on the 5th November, and if it is passed, Bristol will be the first UK city to issue a ban on diesel. The ban will include areas in the centre and beyond, including Ashton Vale, part of the Portway, Southville, St Phillips Marsh, Bedminster, part of Easton, Montpellier, St Werburghs, St Pauls and Cotham. This will not apply to cars, but high polluting vehicles will face the charges.

Bristol’s proposed clean air zones. Image: Bristol City Council

This all sounds very promising, and a massive leap in the right direction towards cleaning up the city, but there are some concerns about the effects it will have on business. The Freight Transport Association said the plan was “unfair”, announcing that “a proposed scheme with such little detail is unfair to the businesses and individuals who work tirelessly to keep the local economy afloat,” a spokesman said. The council will definitely have to take this into consideration, as it has the potential to upset smaller businesses who use these targeted transport links every day at these hours. 

That being said, the city council wish to introduce scrappage schemes for older vehicles, set up grants for taxis and light goods vehicle owners, and even walking and cycling schemes. Major Marvin Rees hopes that this will “demonstrate our commitment to tackling air pollution”. 

If Bristol can implement this change into its community, it could provide other cities with the incentive to apply it to their own congested areas. Since its Industrial Revolution and rapid increase in population, Britain has been a huge contributor to air pollution, and these are the conversations city councils need to be having, and they need to start following through. The scheme may not be revolutionary, but it may be a catalyst for further positive change that catches on outside of Bristol.

Featured image: Skitterphoto / Pixabay

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