We’re on the right track on pol­lu­tion but must do more

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS - Mike Donachie

Ahead­line that caught my at­ten­tion was: “UK bans petrol and diesel cars”. Un­for­tu­nately, it was good busi­ness but not great jour­nal­ism, be­cause it was a lit­tle vera city­chal­lenged. It wasn’t un­true, but didn’t tell the full truth, which is the UK Gov­ern­ment wants to halt the sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Well. Wow. How­ever, are we go­ing to make such fun­da­men­tal changes to our life­style with only 23 years to cram them in?

This plan was an­nounced by Trans­port Sec­re­tary Chris Grayling, a man so my­opic that he tried, un­suc­cess­fully, to limit prison in­mates’ ac­cess to books while he was jus­tice sec­re­tary.

While it’s laud­able – if slightly sur­pris­ing – that a Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment is set­ting an en­vi­ron­men­tal tar­get at all, it’s hard to jus­tify fail­ing to act now.

Per­haps pol­lu­tion is af­fect­ing minds in cen­tral Lon­don, where the mayor, Sadiq Khan, last week led calls for im­me­di­ate ac­tion as he spoke of peo­ple’s “suf­fer­ing” due to air qual­ity.

Scot­land has the same prob­lem on a smaller scale, but it’s a prob­lem nonethe­less. In Jan­uary, Friends of the Earth Scot­land said its data showed the num­ber of “pol­lu­tion zones” in Scot­land had in­creased by five to 38.

The in­for­ma­tion is alarm­ing, pub­licly avail­able and not in any way lim­ited to the Cen­tral Belt. The list in­cludes Atholl Street in Perth (where a nar­row road and high build­ings cre­ate a “street canyon” that I re­call writ­ing about in the ’90s), the Sea­gate in Dundee and, for the first time, Cri­eff High Street. Yes, Cri­eff has a pol­lu­tion prob­lem. As­ton­ish­ing. The an­swer, of course, is to quit the car, which isn’t easy. Frankly, I don’t want to. I own two of the things and dis­like them, but we are hu­mans and can be a lit­tle short-term in our think­ing.

To take the long-term view, we have to think in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively.

So I’m look­ing into some com­mut­ing by bike and pric­ing hy­brid cars, but we look to gov­ern­ments for strong lead­er­ship on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues like this.

The UK Gov­ern­ment needs to set more am­bi­tious goals. It couldn’t hurt to have a word with the Amer­i­cans, too.

It’s hard to jus­tify fail­ing to act now

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