We are supportive of the government's proposed measures to improve air quality and believe the waterways have a role to play in combatting pollution and providing clean air spaces, as well as helping reduce transport pollution by moving journeys off road.
However, in recognising that the inland waterways make a very small but sometimes locally significant contribution to air pollution – namely through boat dependence on solid fuel burning stoves and diesel engines – we are arguing for a coherent government-supported approach, including investment in alternative technologies, to help address these issues and incentivise change.
We want to work with government and local authorities on a sector-wide plan to develop solutions for reducing the impact from power and heating on boats while encouraging the uptake of reduced-emissions technology. This would need to take into account the current difficulties boat owners face in making changes to engines and heating methods, particularly when the boat is someone's home.
Peter Birch, national environment policy advisor at the Trust said: "Our waterways offer a respite for many people, especially when they run through urban areas that lack other green and blue spaces. We believe they have a vital role to play in improving wellbeing and can contribute to the reduction of air pollution. We're committed to working with others to create opportunities for improvement by diverting journeys off road and changing public behaviour.
"Boats on our canals and rivers only make a small contribution to emissions nationally but there can be localised problems. We are working in partnership with local authorities and boaters to address these specific areas but would welcome additional investment in innovation and implementation for alternative technologies to help address these issues. Many boaters are already very environmentally conscious but are hampered by a lack of ‘green' alternatives to diesel engines and wood-burning stoves.
"While we agree that vessels cannot remain exempt and must play their part in the battle to improve air quality, it is essential that the needs of boaters are accounted for when drafting any new legislation."
The Government's Clean Air Strategy can be read here: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environmental-quality/clean-air-strategy-consultation/