Tuesday, 15 January 2019

UK government plans to improve air quality > not enough?

We have a problem with air pollution:
Futures Forum: What to do about car emissions: from Paris to London...

- and have had so for some time now:
Futures Forum: What to do about car emissions: from Paris to London ... yet again...

Whatever happens with Brexit, the UK will have to comply with regulations - and has been called on to do so time and time again:
Futures Forum: "The UK government is “flouting” its duty to protect the lives and health of its citizens from illegal and dangerous levels of air pollution."
Futures Forum: UK government again told to act on air pollution

And so we need to do something:
Futures Forum: Air pollution: urgent action needed

And so the UK government has acted: 

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released its much anticipated Clean Air Strategy 2019, setting out how England will set out reducing the prevalence of harmful air pollutants.

Defra unveils Clean Air Strategy | Environment Analyst

With a few more details here: 

The government has set out new plans on air pollution that ministers say go beyond existing EU rules, with a pledge to improve air quality nationwide to the standards the World Health Organization (WH0) recommends.

Farmers will be subject to such air quality regulations for the first time to cut their growing contribution to pollution, under the government plans set out on Monday, while diesel vehicle drivers and owners of wood-burning stoves will also face restrictions.

New air pollution plans improve on EU rules, government claims | Environment | The Guardian 

But not everyone is happy: 

The government's clean air plan largely ignores traffic pollution

The government has published its new Clean Air Strategy, intended to improve air quality and the catastrophic impact of nitrous dioxide pollution on health with new restrictions on wood stoves, open fires and agriculture (BBC News).

The UK, and England in particular, has some of the worst nitrogen dioxide pollution in Europe, largely due to vehicles, but instead of introducing new nationwide measures to reduce diesel emissions, the new plan refers back to a woefully inadequate 2017 policy for tackling roadside nitrogen oxide pollution, which makes it largely the responsibility of local authorities.

The government's clean air plan largely ignores traffic pollution | WIRED UK 

Here's Greenpeace: 

Amid our growing air pollution crisis the Government have today announced their grand plan to tackle air pollution. In it are welcome recognition of the scale of the problem and levels of ambition. However there are clear gaps in their plan that make this yet another failed opportunity. 

The government's new Clean Air Strategy - what's wrong with it? | Greenpeace UK

And here's the Financial Times:

Air pollution crackdown avoids legally binding goals

Campaigners say new strategy ducks question of existing air quality targets

London fog: Public concern over the impact of air pollution is growing © Reuters

Leslie Hook in London 

A new UK plan to tackle air pollution will aim to reduce the number of people exposed to fine particulate matter, the government announced on Monday.

But the plan stopped short of outlining a target on fine particulates — one of the most damaging forms of pollution — and campaigners criticised the government’s new strategy for not including legally binding goals on air quality.

The campaigners also complained that the strategy ducked the question of how the government intended to meet existing air quality targets, which have been repeatedly missed in the past.

Britain is one of six EU countries facing fines at the European Court of Justice owing to persistent violations of air-quality limits.

Michael Gove, environment secretary, pledged “strong, urgent action” to improve air quality. “While air quality has improved significantly in recent years, air pollution continues to shorten lives, harm our children and reduce quality of life,” he added.

Public concern over the impact of air pollution has been growing, as an increasing body of research highlights the adverse health effects, particularly on children.

Last week attorney-general Geoffrey Cox granted permission for a new inquest into the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who lived in London and suffered from repeated asthma attacks. The inquest is expected to consider whether her death was linked to air pollution.

Bryony Worthington, a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords who helped craft UK climate-change legislation a decade ago, said the real test for the government would be what sort of air-quality protections were contained in its forthcoming environment bill. “The proof will be in that bill, if it is full of aspirations and no new policy, then it will fail that test,” she added.

Andrea Lee of ClientEarth, a non-profit organisation, said the government’s new strategy was “a bit like planning to do more planning”, as it promised to release a new study soon about what it would take to meet guidelines by the World Health Organisation on fine particulate matter. “At the moment the UK is projected to not meet quite a few of their emissions targets in 2020,” she said. “We welcome the acknowledgment of the need to have a more ambitious target on particulate matter, but we want it to be a legally binding commitment.”

Simon Birkett, head of Clean Air London, a group campaigning for cleaner air in the capital, said the government’s strategy was “pipe dreams and warm words, but nothing we can rely on”. “The real test is about existing commitments,” he added, saying Britain already had legally binding targets for curbing ammonia and nitrogen dioxide, but was not on track to meet them.

Academics welcomed how the government’s strategy sought to address air pollution from a wide range of industries. “Our past attempts to control air pollution made the mistake of focusing on one pollutant source at a time rather than the whole problem,” said Gary Fuller, a scientist at King’s College London and author of The Invisible Killer, an account of global air pollution. “It will come as a surprise to many to see agriculture and shipping in the new plans but we need action on all sources of air pollution if we are to reduce the intolerable health burden of breathing bad air.” 

Air pollution crackdown avoids legally binding goals | Financial Times

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