Government to miss air quality targets by over a decade
EU targets on air pollution in the UK will not be met until 2021 earliest – more than a decade after the original deadline for compliance – according to new research by the National Audit Office.
Prepared in support of a joint inquiry by the Environmental Audit Committee, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the Health Committee and the Transport Committee of the House of Commons, the report finds that the government does not expect to achieve compliance with EU limits on NO2 in 37 of the UK’s 43 air quality zones before 2021 despite the original deadline being set for 2010.
And it’s not until 2026 that the government estimates that all 43 zones in the UK will be compliant with EU nitrogen dioxide limits.
The report comes some 10 days after environmental law firm ClientEarth said it’s taking the government back to court for a third time over current air quality plans to address “holes” in the proposals and call for a national network of charging Clean Air Zones.
James Thornton, CEO of environmental lawyers ClientEarth, said: “The NAO report lays bare the stark facts on air pollution affecting many areas of the UK, and illustrates why we have been forced to take the UK Government back to court for failing to produce a plan that would reduce the country’s illegal and harmful levels of air pollution in the shortest time possible.
“The government has passed the buck to local authorities and the NAO raises questions about whether it is doing enough to support them. Many more towns and cities have illegal levels of pollution than the 23 which ministers have pinpointed in their latest flawed air quality plan. We need much more action from the government and next week’s Budget must contain measures which encourage a move away from diesel and on to cleaner forms of transport.”
In October, the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health, and Transport Committees also announced the relaunch of a joint inquiry to explore if the latest air quality plans go far enough and fast enough to meet legal limits.