A ring-wing think tank has called on the government to end the freeze on the value of fuel duty and apply a surcharge on fuel duty for diesel fuel, to help improve air quality.

The call came from Bright Blue, and was contained in its new report, Emission impossible? Air pollution, national governance and the transport sector.

William Nicolle, researcher at Bright Blue and co-author of Emission impossible?, said: “Stronger evidence has emerged in recent years about the detrimental impact of air pollution to human health, the economy and the environment. Consequently, there is growing public and political pressure for tougher action to reduce levels of air pollution in the UK. The UK’s departure from the EU means that there is an opportunity to raise air pollution standards in the UK.”

“The UK government needs new, ambitious legal limits, legal responsibilities and policies on air pollution. This country should aspire to be a global leader on yet another environmental issue, and strive to become the country with the cleanest air in urban areas in the developed world.”

The main policy recommendations for reducing air pollution from the transport sector include:

• lift the freeze on the value of fuel duty and apply a surcharge on fuel duty for diesel fuel (a ‘diesel duty’);

• introduce a surcharge for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) on new diesel cars in the UK (‘diesel excise duty’ (DED));

• exempt the purchase of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) from VAT; and

• enable local and combined authorities to strive for ‘reasonable profits’ from their charging vehicles to enter clean air zones (CAZs), to fund further local air pollution abatement policies.