This article originally appeared on the UN Environment website.
The United Kingdom government announced on 9 September 2018 that it is seeking consultations on the introduction of a green-coloured number plate scheme for low-emission vehicles.
“Adding a green badge of honour to these new clean vehicles is a brilliant way of helping increase awareness of their growing popularity in the UK, and might just encourage people to think about how one could fit into their own travel routine,” said Chris Graying, the UK Transport Secretary.
Green number plate schemes are already in use in China and Canada on low-emission vehicles to make them distinct from others. Green number plate schemes may help support specific local incentives for low-emissions vehicles by allowing access to special bus or dedicated lanes, charging bays, subsidized parking facilities or ultra-low-emission zones.
Norway has a similar scheme in place where the number plates are prefixed with letters such as EK or EL to signify that they are electrically powered or that they run on alternative fuel. Sales of electric and hybrid cars in Norway outpaced those running on fossil fuels last year, cementing the country’s position as a global leader in the push to reduce vehicle emissions.
One of the biggest challenges to the widespread uptake of electric vehicles is so-called “anxiety range” whereby motorists are afraid that they will not have enough electric range to reach their destination. That is why it is vital that countries develop a charging infrastructure. The development of such a network may be particularly challenging in countries with large distances to cover.
“Air pollution is the biggest public health emergency of our time. Incentives such as green license plates for low-emission vehicles can go a long way in encouraging a transition to electric vehicles. And when we make this transition, we will all breathe much cleaner air,” said Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment.
The UK hosted the world’s first Zero Emission Vehicle Summit on 10 to 12 September 2018, to discuss the development and uptake of zero-emissions vehicles. The summit brought together ministers, industry leaders and sector representatives from around the world to tackle carbon emissions and find ways to improve air quality.
What is air pollution doing to us?
According to the World Health Organization, seven million people die every year from exposure to polluted air, both indoor and outdoor. Deaths and illnesses from air pollution are largely due to tiny, invisible airborne particles, known as particulate matter, which can be as small as a molecule. These particles are clumps of poison, containing anything from black carbon (soot), to sulphates to lead. The smallest particles are the deadliest: PM2.5 particles, which are 2.5 microns or less in diameter, and PM10, which are 10 microns or less in diameter. These tiny killers bypass the body’s defences and lodge in the lungs, bloodstream and brain.
Air pollution doesn’t just kill, however. It also contributes to other illnesses, hampers development and causes mental health problems. Air pollution impacts human health and economic growth. Many of the pollutants also cause global warming, such as black carbon, which is produced by diesel engines, burning trash and dirty cookstoves. If we were to reduce the emissions of these pollutants, we could slow global warming by up to 0.5°C over the next few decades.
UN Environment’s Electric Mobility Programme
UN Environment’s Electric Mobility Programme works with countries, particularly emerging economies, to shift from fossil fuels to electric vehicles including buses, 2&3 wheelers and light-duty vehicles.
Today’s transport sector is almost completely dependent on fossil fuels but this doesn’t have to be the case. Leading by example, countries like Norway and China have put in place policies to support the use of electric vehicles, with measurable success. Such practices need to be scaled up and replicated around the world.
UN Environment uses its extensive network and country contacts to promote electric mobility with a special focus on developing national and sub-national electric mobility policies, convening stakeholders to map out regional strategies and roadmaps, supporting demonstration pilots, and facilitating the exchange of best practices and clean technology options.
Breathe Life – a global campaign for clean air
The global #BreatheLife campaign, led by the World Health Organization, UN Environment and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, is supporting a range of cleaner air initiatives that cover 39 cities, regions, and countries, reaching over 80 million people.
By instituting policies and programmes to curb transport and energy emissions, and to promote the use of clean energy, cities are leading change and improving the lives of a large number of people.
Breathe Life: I drive an electric car