New government consultation promises to reduce pollutants of many kinds – but fails to address diesel emissions

Environment Secretary Michael Gove today published a Clean Air Strategy which looks to cut air pollution and save lives, backed up through new primary legislation.

The new government strategy aims to reduce human exposure to a wide range of particulate matter pollutants and work alongside the Government’s existing £3.5 billion plan to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles, set out in July last year.

However, there has been criticism of the lack of detail in the proposals, as well as the Government’s failure to provide a clear strategy of dealing with diesel emissions.

The Government estimates that the new strategy will reduce the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030.

Goals include:
• By 2025, the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter above the WHO guideline limit of 10 ug/m3 will be halved

• New primary legislation to give local government new powers to improve air quality, as well as on domestic wood and coal burning to ensure “the cleanest domestic fuels” are sold
• Regulations and financial support for new infrastructure to limit ammonia emissions from farming

• New standards for tyres and brakes to reduce toxic non-exhaust emissions of micro plastics from vehicles

• Personalised pollution alerts system

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Air quality has improved significantly since 2010 but sixty years on from the historic Clean Air Act a clear truth remains – air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment.

“This is why today we are launching this clean air strategy, backed up with new primary legislation. It sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of government to improve air quality.

“What we have got here are a series of proportionate measures which we hope will deal with what is a big public health issue.”

“Hugely disappointing”
There has been widespread criticism of the proposals, from both the Labour Party and environmental campaigners.

Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman said: “It is hugely disappointing that despite being dragged through the courts time and again on its inadequate air quality plans, the Government is dragging its feet by announcing yet another consultation.”

Writing on Twitter, Hayman continued: “[The] Government’s air pollution strategy passes the buck to cash-strapped local councils and does not say how they will deal with the problem of NOX emissions from cars.

“Michael Gove has become the Secretary of State for Consultations – with over 25 consultations published by his department since the General Election and not a single piece of primary legislation brought forward.”

The new strategy has also been criticised for failing to significantly tackle diesel emissions.

James Thornton, CEO of environmental lawyers ClientEarth, said: “Road transport is still the main source of illegal air pollution in our towns and cities. We need a national network of clean air zones (CAZs) to take the most polluting vehicles out of the most polluted areas.”

This latest criticism comes after the UK was referred to Europe’s highest court over its failure to crack down on nitrogen dioxide pollution, which mostly comes from diesel vehicles.

Earlier this year, the July 2017 plan mentioned in this latest strategy was slammed as “woefully inadequate”, “unlawful” and ruled illegally poor by the High Court.

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