Word on the Street: No incentive for government to reduce use of dangerous fuels while tax cash rolls in


- Credit: Archant

The next generation has spoken about action to save the planet. But is anyone really listening?

Environmentally, the world is suffering. Our pollinators are dying, rainforests are being depleted, insects are diminishing, seas are being polluted and fish are starving as they dine on plastic. Why are events of change for the better not moving faster?

HGVs, JCBs and many other large vehicles are still run on diesel, which emits PM10 particles, which are harmful to our health. Why are they not using electric or hybrid drive systems whose technology has been around for years and which is used in military vehicles? Why are our local councils not exploring converting kinetic energy produced by vehicles on their roads into electricity and powering our street lights with such energy or putting any excess into the national grid? There are a multiplicity of other technologies that are alternatives to the burning of fuels which are not being sufficiently explored, such as turning radio waves into electricity.

We do not yet have the infrastructure to support solely electric vehicle use and the disposal of electric batteries will be a massive problem for the environment, so are electric cars really the answer?

Why are many of our trains still diesel? Why are supermarkets still pumping out plastic and allowing their suppliers to do the same when there are bio-degradable alternatives to plastic that could be used? Why are pesticides still used as freely as they are?

The government is set to earn £28.2bn in 2018-19 from fuel duty on petrol, diesel, biodiesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) that is sold for use by vehicles licensed for road use in the UK. This represents 1.3 per cent of our national income excluding additional VAT sums on the duty and pre-tax price of fuel. Where then is the incentive for it to do anything to slow down the rate of consumption of the very hydrocarbon-based fuels on which it earns its tax?

Our current way of life has locked us into a spiral of decline that we cannot expect the government alone to address.

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At a local level, one can hardly breathe walking down Frognal on the school run with vehicles at a standstill during rush hour belching out fumes. During days of little wind activity, the smell is almost over-powering. This must be the case for many parents and carers walking their kids to school.

As long as local councils such as Camden approve 100,000 sq ft developments with at least 2,000 diesel HGV movements pouring out PM10s (such as at the Royal Free’s Pears Building site) next to our schools, which are known as air quality sensitive sites (such as Hampstead Hill school where children are between two and seven), nothing will change.

Some US communities are fighting back despite the abdication of climate change responsibility by their government. Indeed, with care, some species are recovering. Change is possible if we have the will. Consumer choice here is key. When next you are considering changing your car, do think about a hybrid or electric car. When you go shopping, do consider those shops that eschew products wrapped in plastic. If we, as consumers, do not shift our habits and, therefore, the money and profit motive of manufacturers, we can march all we and each generation after us want, but nothing will change.

We must act now to prevent our and each future generation being faced with unbearable climate change.