Gasrec is calling on the government to cut HGV emissions by making the use of natural gas as a low emission alternative to diesel a central plank of its air quality plans.

In a written response to the government’s Clean Air Consultation this week, Gasrec argued that if the state is to meet targets on clean air it will need to place much greater focus on reducing emissions from heavier vehicles, since these vehicles produce 20% of road transport-derived CO2.

The written response points to the increasing use of natural gas as a transport fuel in European cities including Paris and Madrid, and calls for measures to help encourage the faster uptake of environmentally beneficial natural gas vehicles in the UK.

Gasrec’s call comes as pressure mounts on the government to improve the UK’s air quality.

Last week the High Court demanded the government produce improved National Air Quality Plans by July next year to meet agreed legal pollution limits, following an earlier ruling.

In the same week a report from the European Environment Agency noted the UK has the second highest number of deaths in Europe from NO2 pollution.

Gasrec CEO Rob Wood applauded government support for the development of electric cars and lighter vehicles, but urged it to “place emphasis on tackling emissions from heavier vehicles, which carry a disproportionate responsibility for our country’s poor air quality".

“The government should recognise the immediate benefits of switching the heavy vehicle fleet to natural gas. Natural Gas is the only currently available, low emission solution for vehicles at the heavier end of the transport spectrum," he said.

The expansion of natural gas fuelled vehicles would improve air quality immediately, reduce the costs of transport to fleet operators and the cost of goods in the shops, he added.

However, RHA’s policy director Jack Semple has questioned the effectiveness of developing alternative fuels as a way of cutting emissions.

Speaking at the Freight in the City Expo, Semple criticised the government’s decision to give £25m of funding to develop methane as an alternative fuel, and called for greater funding for technology such as telematics, which has been proven to cut emissions through their application and resulting reduction in road miles.

He said: “For a fraction of what the government has committed to methane in the last few years, we could really move things forward. So it’s good to innovate. But are we innovating in the right direction?”