The Sheffield Green City Strategy aims to reduce the city’s impact on the climate by becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050. The UK has already reduced emissions by around 44 per cent since 1990 and the net zero 2050 pledge is likely to lead to more investment and innovation in renewable energies.
Sheffield is a green city both in its urban core and its surrounding landscape and this is part of its attractiveness and distinctiveness. However, polluted air is a major drain on Sheffield’s economy, currently costing around £200m every year, impacting on economic growth and people’s health.
Sheffield City Council plan to introduce the Clean Air Zone in early 2021, which will contribute to the Green City Strategy. The aim is to create a city with transportation systems that are efficient and affordable, reliable and clean, simple and intuitive, networked and integrated, and low-emission.
The highest number of polluting vehicles’ are buses, HGVs and taxis which are responsible for half of Sheffield’s air pollution but only make up 20% of traffic. As a result the Clean Air Zone will introduce the following charges if they enter designated zones:
- £10 per day for polluting LGVs and Taxis
- £50 per day for coaches, buses and HGVs
Taxis, buses and HGV’s can avoid these charges if they meet the following criteria:
- Taxis which are ultra-low emissions (hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell) or Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG)
- LGVs and Minibuses with Euro 6 Diesel or Euro 4 Petrol
- Buses and Coaches with Euro 6 Diesel
- HGVs with Euro 6 Diesel
The system currently proposes not to charge private cars for entering the city centre. Private cars make up 80% of road traffic, and contribute 50% of the pollution. The strategy seeks to improve air quality by tackling the heaviest polluting vehicles. However the system will encourage the use of the private motor vehicle.
As a result it appears that strategy is trying to tackle the sources of pollution instead of creating a city where people choose public transport and active travel more often, thereby reducing emissions, improving people’s health and making the city easier to move around (reducing congestion).
A city with clean air, an efficient public transport system, high levels of active travel and healthier citizens will have a stronger, fairer economy. The government have provided funding for around £50 million to help those people whose livelihoods depend on a van or a taxi, allowing them to take out an interest free loan. This support will be used to upgrade or replace their old, polluting vehicles.
The main question that arises is why the funding for the strategy is not being invested in improving the road networks to make public transport more accessible, and discouraging the use of private motor vehicle as congestion will continue to remain unless all vehicles that fail to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Zone will be charged.