Cheating, dodging rules and heavy lobbying by motor manufacturers fuelled the toxic air the UK is struggling with today.
Conniving car makers and their lobbying might, assisted by the 2008 financial crash, were the key factors in producing the diesel-fuelled air pollution crisis the UK is struggling with today, according to key observers of the disaster.
Earlier government decisions to incentivise diesel vehicles, which produce less climate-warming carbon dioxide, sparked the problem but were made in good faith. The heart of the disaster is instead a giant broken promise: the motor industry said it would clean up diesel but instead cheated and dodged the rules for years.
The result has been that the air people breathe in cities and towns is now heavily polluted with toxic nitrogen dioxide, causing 23,500 premature deaths a year in the UK and affecting many schools. The government, whose inadequate plans have twice been declared illegal, will come up with a new, court-ordered strategy as soon as next week.
“We were told by the vehicle manufacturers the [diesel emissions] limits would be met and there was no problem,”
said Greg Archer, who was managing the UK government’s air pollution research two decades ago, when new tax breaks led to the diesel boom.
“What of course actually happened was those limits were not met on the road, as the car manufacturers started to turn down the after-treatment systems and cheat the tests.”
The government’s chief scientific adviser at the time, Sir David King, tells the same story:
“I was convinced the [motor manufacturers] could manage the problem. It turns out we were wrong.”
Read more: The Guardian