Clean air and climate groups join in new policy initiative

A joint initiative aimed at bringing together the air quality and climate change communities to tackle the “common challenge” of road transport emissions was unveiled in the Houses of Parliament yesterday (March 1).

A seminar was held to mark the launch of the joint initiative in Westminster: (L-R)

A seminar was held to mark the launch of the joint initiative in Westminster: (L-R)

Spearheaded by the newly-formed Clean Air Alliance (CAA) and the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), the initiative was launched alongside a ‘communique’ setting out goals for collaboration to “help make sure that transport actions to mitigate both problems are joined-up as effectively as possible”.

The communique – which has been signed by a number of public and private bodies, academic institutions and campaign groups – sets out five broad targets for the initiative, highlighting the “industrial and economic opportunities” for reducing emissions.

It also calls for common standards for vehicle and fuel definitions and for “accelerated and consistently applied action” to meet climate and air quality regulations.

But, launching the initiative, CAA chair and former Conservative MP Dan Byles stressed that the communique represented “only the first step” and called for pragmatic work to develop common policies.

Mr Byles said: “The science shows that if air pollution is addressed, there will generally also be a significant decrease in climate carbon emissions.

“The science shows that if air pollution is addressed, there will generally also be a significant decrease in climate carbon emissions” – Dan Byles, CAA chair

“It’s vital that this exciting partnership between the CAA and LowCVP helps the air quality and climate change communities work more closely together to better understand the links between them and the benefits of addressing the two issues together.”

Tensions

Seeking to show how policies aimed at tackling climate change can also serve to limit air pollution, signatories to the communique also are also aiming to identify “areas of tension or confusion” between the two agendas.

Such past tensions were highlighted by several speakers on the day, with the likes of shadow climate change minister Barry Gardiner lamenting past incentives for diesel vehicles designed to cut carbon emissions – a policy which is widely thought to have adversely affected UK air quality.

Mr Gardiner reiterated his claim that the previous Labour government was “wrong” to incentivise diesel cars, but also highlighted successive governments’ failure to bring an end to these incentives in the face of increasing evidence of diesel emissions’ impact on air pollution.

He said he was therefore “delighted that we have now joined up the wider pollution angle with the air quality angle”, adding that “we need to bring issues together like this” as air quality has been a problem “for far too long”.

Barry Gardiner (L) speaking at the seminar

Barry Gardiner (L) speaking at the seminar

Seminar

As well as Mr Gardiner, the launch was attended by politicians including chair of the Committee on Climate Change Lord Deben, alongside policymakers and stakeholders from across the road transport emissions sector.

Lord Deben told attendees at the Parliamentary reception for the launch: “I’m sorry to say the campaigns on air quality and climate change have been so divided – we haven’t got together and demanded action.”

He added: “We’ve allowed successive governments – and I don’t think anyone has come out of this well, whether Labour or Tories or anyone – to palm us off with half solutions.”

The launch also included a seminar at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Westminster, at which Mr Gardiner advocated statutory targets and incentives for lower emission vehicles, but added that major consumer and behaviour change is only going to happen if it is seen as “the most convenient way”.

“We’ve allowed successive governments – and I don’t think anyone has come out of this well, whether Labour or Tories or anyone – to palm us off with half solutions” – Lord Deben

He said: “Start making it convenient for people – then they can feel more comfortable and easier about going about their lives.”

Mr Gardiner was also critical of Defra’s new air quality plan, reiterating his call that: “You need a national framework for low emission zones, because when you simply choose a few cities in England to put Clean Air Zones you give notice to fleet operators to move their fleets to other cities.”

Also on the seminar panel were chief executive of Transport for Greater Manchester Dr Jon Lamonte and president of the AA Edmund King OBE, as well as LowCVP managing director Andy Eastlake, who in regards to developing future policy said: “I don’t think there is one panacea, I actually believe there are a multitude of solutions.”

Mr Eastlake commented: “We look forward to collaborating with representatives of the air quality community and will be looking for practical ways to embed consideration of air pollution into all our processes.”

The CAA was formed in June 2015 as a coalition of environmental groups, public bodies, businesses and academic institutions, while the LowCVP is a public-private, not-for-profit organisation of 200 members mainly funded by the Department for Transport.

Signatories to the initiative:

  • Clean Air Alliance UK
  • Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP)
  • King’s College London
  • Transport for Greater Manchester
  • Environmental Protection UK
  • Cenex
  • Clean Air in London
  • The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC)
  • Deliver Change
  • Green Alliance
  • Imperial College London – National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI)
  • The Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES)
  • Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  • Society for the Environment