Pushing the ‘magic button’ on air pollution! Govt consultation closing date 6th Nov

Scroll down to take ACTION against air pollution – NOW!

Air pollution – which the government itself states is responsible for in excess of 30,000 deaths a year in this country – is mostly caused by road vehicles: “On average, around 80% of NOx in areas where the UK is exceeding limits is due to transport”, and about half of that comes from diesel cars and vans (LGVs) DEFRA Overview document  page 12 This has been the case for decades but little has been done to remove the air pollution hotspots, mostly in our towns and cities.

The actions needed to combat air pollution would be like pushing a ‘magic button’  helping to provide so many other things transport campaigners want to achieve: it could pressurise the vehicle mix (against diesel, for electrics); tilt the policy mix in favour of sustainable and active transport; provide a case against increased road traffic, and roadbuilding in general, or particular road schemes; jeopardise individual high-profile schemes like Heathrow Airport or Silvertown Tunnel; and so on.

So now’s your chance to press that button! As a result of the legal case won by Client Earth at the Supreme Court earlier this year the government are now having to identify how they will ensure that air quality in every part of the UK is compliant with EU directives as soon as possible – which is defined as ‘full compliance … by 2020 at the latest’. The government published its consultation proposals as to how they intended to do this in early September; the closing date for your comments is in 10 days time – Friday 6th November. The government will have to take account of all responses in its final proposals to be submitted to the EU by the end of this year.

What happens if the government’s plan is not good enough? If on analysis it seems unlikely that their approach will actually achieve full EU compliance no later than 2020? Well maybe there would be grounds for another court case. But there will also be opportunities for campaigning against air pollution and for sustainable transport where you are on into 2016, which will be supported by Campaign for Better Transport and the Healthy Air Campaign (an offshoot of Client Earth).

And are the government’s proposals any good? Air pollution is quite a complicated issue but the basic answer appears to be – No they’re not. And therefore it’s imperative that we send this message to them: ‘your proposals aren’t tough enough, and we need cleaner, more sustainable transport’.

How to press the button against air pollution

- first of all, read the Healthy Air Campaign short analysis of the inadequacies of the government proposals here. They say there are four main problems: lack of supporting evidence; lack of action at the national level; lack of resources available to tackle air pollution; and ‘uncertainty from the use of Euro standards’ – by which they mean ‘will EU prescribed improvements to engine technology actually deliver real world improvements upon which the government is relying?’. And of course the VW scandal has given us the answer to that.

You should look at the main government consultation document here, the summary is here; and you can download their ‘draft air quality plan’ for the area in which you live here. If you’re reasonably expert you may be able to identify, from your local perspective, what might be the weaknesses of the government approach as it affects your area.

You can also read the CBT briefing (here) and their webpage Help us clean up England’s filthy air!

- Then respond to the government consultation using the CBT online form here. It’s very easy and won’t take long. CBT say: ‘We’ve included suggestions of the key points to raise and the steps that the Government needs to take. There is also plenty of room to give your views on the local measures currently being proposed. You only have until 6 November to make your voice heard’. The CBT form uses the 6 questions asked by the government. If you want to write something else you can send your own email response to: consultation.coordinator@defra.gsi.gov.uk.

- But you can also ask your local council to take action on your behalf. There’s another test which can be applied to the government proposals: ‘Will they solve the air pollution problems that are already known about in your local area – because air quality management areas (AQMAs) have already been declared, on the basis that the air quality is not compliant – or not?’.

Many AQMAs have been in place for years but they haven’t brought about a reduction in air pollution compliant with EU standards, because the government hasn’t actually required them to be enforced. If the new proposals won’t actually solve the problem of your local AQMAs – because the implementation framework isn’t strong enough, or councils don’t have enough resources – then they need to tell the government now. They have every reason to themselves give a tough response to the government consultation because, in addition to the local lives being lost through air pollution, it’s the councils who will be faced with huge fines if their local air quality is still not compliant in 2020.

If you want to write to your local council urging them to make a tough response to the government consultation here is a template letter which you can adapt to your local circumstances. But you’ll need to do this very quickly, even before Friday 6th November. If you’re an area with a Combined Authority for your sub-region send a similar letter to them.

And if you have good contacts with your local council do try and speak to the lead officer and lead councillor dealing with air quality. Ask them if air quality in their AQMAs is compliant with EU standards by now or will be by 2020; if not they need to act now. Find out if they are intending to respond to the government consultation; urge them to do so; and explain why they must now demand that the government gives them all the tools they need to get rid of air pollution for good.

- Finally try and get as many people – transport activists you know, or across your local community – to respond to the government consultation by Friday 6th November. The more people say its proposals are not good enough the more the government will have to improve them or face the possibility of a further court case. Just circulate a link to this page: www.transportnorth.org.uk/emissions-and-air-quality/pushing-the-button-on-air-pollution