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Relaunched air quality inquiry is fifth in seven years

Stuart Spear30/11/2017 - 10:57

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ClientEarth gives evidence
ClientEarth gives evidence

CIEH has laid out its position on air quality in its response to the four-parliamentary committee inquiry into air quality.

Last month the four committees agreed to continue their collaborative inquiry into the government’s response to the UK’s failure to meet EU air quality standards. The initial inquiry launched in March 2017 suffered a hiatus due to the June election.

This will be the fifth commons inquiry on air quality since 2010 with, so far, few outcomes.

The four committees in the unprecedented union are the Environmental Audit Committee, Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Health Committee and Transport Committee.

The Improving Air Quality Inquiry comes as the government faces a third legal challenge from the environmental legal charity ClientEarth over its revised air quality plan released in July.  Earlier versions have twice been ruled inadequate

CIEH has provided written evidence to the inquiry. Its response points out that given the transboundary nature of air pollution it is ‘wholly inappropriate’ to shift the focus just on local authorities while the government focus on Clean Air Zones (CAZs) is untested with no guarantee of success.

CIEH has also pointed out that the government’s current focus on NO2 ignores the equally critical public health threat of particulates.  A more joined up approach is needed, warns CIEH.

‘In reality, “joined up” approaches are not being followed and government policies are simply not making this a priority,’ points out CIEH.

When it comes to solutions CIEH is calling for the introduction of clean air charging zones on a national level, the removal of diesel tax incentives, better integrated public transport, a phased reduction of sub Euro VI diesel vehicles and the phasing out of transport refrigeration units.

Hearing oral evidence on Thursday ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews outlined to MPs the reasons it plans to take the government back to court.

He explained there were three elements to the challenge. The first is that the five local authorities under the 2015 plan that were supposed to have been mandated to introduce clean air zones have are no longer being legally required to do so.

‘That raises major alarm bels with us as to whether these clean air zones will happen by 2020,’ Mr Andrews told the Inquiry.

‘Second, we are concerned that 45 councils breaching the NO2 limits, the plan does not require them to do anything with the plan relying on gradual fleet turnover… and the third element relates to Wales, the plan for Wales is pitiful with no real commitments to take any action.’

The next inquiry session taking oral evidence will be on 30 November when MPs will hear from

Thérèse Coffey MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Andrew Jones MP, Exchequer Secretary, HM Treasury
Marcus Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government
Jesse Norman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Transport


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