NO2 pollution plans widely criticised

Spill Response Expo blog post 1

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has termed the government’s third set of proposals to cut nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution levels to legal standards as “wholly inadequate”.

The body is one of a number representing stakeholder groups and professionals in the environmental sector to have voiced disdain at DEFRA’s “ill-prepared and piecemeal” plan - consultation on which ended in mid-June.

The consultation got underway in May after legal pressure group ClientEarth made a number of legal interventions, dating as far back as 2011.

CIEH says that the “plan for a plan” fails to guarantee funds for local authorities and puts all the onus of them to comply with legal standards, setting them up to fail.

It has also called the proposals lacking in substantive measures, timescales for action and plain targets.

The institute added: “We hoped getting a grip on air pollution would be viewed as part of a systematic approach to making our economy 21st century-’fit’. However, after this plan this doesn’t appear to be the reality.”

The proposals have also come under scrutiny from the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), who have called the plan a “missed opportunity” to cut NO2 levels.

CIWEM believes the plan won’t lead to legal NO2 limits being achieved in the shortest time possible, as requested by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom over two years ago.

It also “ignores its own technical advice” that the most effective way to reduce the pollution of urban air is to charge older vehicles entering city centre clean air zones (CAZ), according to CIWEM, with DEFRA instead requiring local councils to show that all other possible options had been exhausted before setting up a CAZ.

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) has further criticised the proposal - claiming that there is an attention deficit in Whitehall with regards to air quality, and poor regulatory enforcement.

Meanwhile, Charity Environmental Protection UK (EPUK) has described the government’s revised proposal as a “retrograde step”, with dates for conforming to the regulations now being absent.

EPUK also believes the proposal’s scope is too narrow and focuses only on NO2 emissions from road transport, instead of all sources of major air pollutants. It has urged for an air quality commission to be created that is able to progress with the policies.