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CIEH slams government air quality strategy as ‘incoherent’

Stuart Spear15/06/2017 - 12:21

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DEFRA strategy fails to tackle NO2 levels
DEFRA strategy fails to tackle NO2 levels

In a firmly worded consultation response CIEH has described the government’s latest attempt at an air quality strategy as ‘inadequate’, ‘incoherent’, ‘inconsistent’ and ‘an abdication of responsibility’.

CIEH submission to the DEFRA national plan to improve air quality and tackle nitrogen dioxide levels is timed to coincide with National Clean Air Day.

CIEH states that the charity along with its membership are ‘very dissatisfied’ with this latest strategy due to its failure to address the current national air quality emergency.

The concerns focus on the absence of any substantive proposals, a lack of timescales, no clarity around targets and a failure to ensure there are any resources in place to support actions that will need to be taken to improve air quality.

‘It seems extraordinary that the government has failed to put together anything which approaches a coherent approach to making our economy fit for the 21st Century or to make an attempt to tackle what is recognised as a public health emergency. This latest strategy put forward by the government is in our view and the view of our members a hastily, ill prepared and piecemeal response,’ said CIEH head of policy Tony Lewis.

CIEH points out that air pollution does not respect local authority boundaries making it inappropriate to develop a piecemeal approach delivered council by council. It also points out that with Clean Air Zone (CAZ) trials taking place in five English cities are in their infancy so it is premature to propose that they could provide a silver bullet when it comes to tackling illegal NO2 levels.

The consultation response points out that CAZs are not so different from Air Quality Management Areas that have, in the main, not been a success. Over 200 AQMAs nationally are still in place having failed to adequately improve air quality.

‘Consequently, we take the view that CAZ and potential access charging will lead to similar results with all vehicles potentially seeking alternative routes around the zones,’ points out CIEH.

When it comes to finding solution to the illegal levels of NO2, CIEH calls for a range of responses. The ultimate solution being to reduce vehicle numbers, especially those that fail to comply with Euro VI or petrol Euro 3 standards as a minimum.

While impractical short term, in the interim CAZ charging could be used as part of a strategy that also includes the removal of tax incentives for diesel vehicles, the development of an infrastructure to support ultra-low emission and zero emission vehicles, a switch to good quality integrated transport system and a properly supported scrappage scheme.

CIEH response states:

We believe that local authorities should be financially supported to take a number of actions and these include but are not limited to:

  • Providing new and better designed cycle routes that physically separate cyclists from other traffic
  • Purchasing and ULEVs and ZEVs for their own purposes
  • Developing and extending infrastructure to support ZEV’s 
  • Supporting moves to progress infrastructure projects that provide alternatives to driving through AQMAs or CAZ
  • Supporting local authorities to develop a better understanding of the issues through better real time monitoring of air quality and associated health-related data 
















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