Environmental law firm Client Earth has accused the Government of ‘missing the point’ in its response to an inquiry by MPs into illegal levels of air pollution across the country.
The inquiry, involving the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, and Transport Committees, has published the Government response to their joint report on improving air quality today.
In response to the four committees’ report, the Government has stated it will replace the patchwork of air quality legislation with a single coherent framework; deliver a personal air quality messaging system to inform the public; provide clearer health advice; make better use of local authority air pollution data; improve oversight on air quality spending; and halve the number of individuals living in areas exceeding World Health Organisation limits for particulate matter by 2025.
Serious concerns remain, however, over the extent of the Government’s commitment to improving air quality and reducing its impact on public health.
Client Earth CEO James Thornton said: “The Government has skated over the hard commitments MPs asked for. Yes, the people in this country need to know more about pollution levels and the associated risks, but they also need the Government to actually do something about them.”
Neil Parish MP, chairman of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, accused the Government of “shying away” from the bold action needed to tackle pollution.
He said: “Our report called on Government to promote cross-departmental working, force car manufacturers to contribute to a Clean Air Fund, and commit real financial support to local authorities breaching NO2 limits. We see little evidence of this happening.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Government has not taken stronger action on car manufacturers. The car industry is partly responsible for our toxic streets, and seeing the Government resist calls for an industry-financed Clean Air Fund is incomprehensible.
“The level of support available to local authorities is currently inadequate. Defra has instructed an additional 33 local authorities to tackle NO2 breaches, but so far only £1.65 million has been allocated to support them. That is clearly not enough. We expect a properly resourced national support scheme and urge the Government to commit to significant funding increases as soon as possible.”
MPs on the four Parliamentary committees published their joint report on improving air quality in March. It called on the Government to impose tougher restrictions and sooner.
It recommended that the Government introduce a new Clean Air Act, a clean air fund financed by the transport industry, a national air quality support programme for councils, and to require manufacturers to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars earlier than the current 2040 target.