Our environment, clean air and pollution will be a theme for the 2020s as we strive for net zero emissions. Many parts of the UK breach current Nitrogen Dioxide levels. Public Health England said that air pollution is the biggest environment threat to life in the UK.

Across the national broadsheets and red tops, Bristol’s diesel car ban has been welcomed as a progressive plan which puts the environment and air quality first.
In March 2021, when the ban comes in Bristol will be the first city in the UK to introduce an approach that will ban all private diesel cars from the city centre area and charge non-compliant commercial vehicles.

Problem solved. Presumably we just roll this out across the UK?

Bristol City Council and Mayor Marvin Rees deserve credit for progressing this far. The time for action is now and we have to start somewhere. The boundaries for the Clean Air Zones where diesel drivers are banned in the city centre and a second wider area where LGV drivers will be charged £9/day and HGVs £100/day have been published.

Change like this will always raise legitimate questions especially when you consider the implementation, such as:
• How much say will road users and businesses have over the zone and will it be reviewed?
• What happens to people who bought a diesel car with the good intention of believing it was a greener option than petrol?
• How can Bristol City Council ensure that we don’t end up with ‘diesel roads’ which make congestion worse in the city?

The success of this scheme is dependent on working with business and communities on the detail. If Bristol City Council makes this a success, it serves as a blueprint for rest of the UK and removes barriers to creating clean air zones. If this scheme doesn’t work, it’s back to drawing board. As Marvin Rees says – this is the fastest way of improving air quality by 2025.

Bristol’s leadership around this issue presents a challenge the UK will grapple with for the next decade. We all want to live in a cleaner country. How do we do it successfully whilst asking the public to make compromises?

Our recent research into public attitudes to net zero emissions shows that the public is unwilling to pay for changes, but accept that we need to improve our environment. Almost two thirds of the UK public are not confident that government will make the necessary changes in time to meet targets. Without innovative ideas like Bristol City Council’s, that number will only increase and we will lose momentum.