In a new report on Action on Air Quality, the cross-party committee of MPs says diesel is “the most significant driver of air pollution in our cities”.
The current vehicle tax system, which only focuses on CO2 – an area where diesel vehicles have an advantage – should be changed to “help drivers switch to cleaner vehicles”.
A scrappage scheme would provide a fiscal incentive to encourage this.
The report says traffic is responsive for 26 per cent of particulates, 42 per cent of CO and 46 per cent of NOx (nitrogen oxides) in cities.
Transport for London told the Committee that diesel vehicles “produce 22 times as much particulate matter and four times as much NOx as petrol vehicles”.
Air pollution ‘almost as bad as smoking’
Committee chairwoman Joan Walley MP said air pollution from heavy traffic “could be killing almost the same amount of people as smoking in the UK”.
The government estimates around 29,000 annual deaths in the UK are caused by air pollution.
The report says new schools, hospitals and care homes should not be built next to air pollution hotspots, and existing schools next to busy roads should be equipped with air filtration devices.
The government should also “urgently” set up up a national framework of Low Emission Zones modelled on the one in London – they are “one of the most powerful tools that local authorities have for controlling vehicle emissions”.