Defra has confirmed that Thérèse Coffey the MP for Suffolk Coastal, will take over the air quality portfolio from Rory Stewart.
Dr Coffey was appointed to role by Prime Minister Theresa May two weeks ago (17 July), following the promotion of previous Defra minister Rory Stewart to International Development.
However, it was not confirmed at the time whether she would inherit the same responsibilities for steering air quality policy.
Confirmation that Dr Coffey would be overseeing air quality at government level was announced on the Defra website yesterday (1 August) – where her ministerial duties as parliamentary undersecretary of state for the Environment and Rural Opportunities were published.
Dr Coffey’s responsibilities include:
- Natural environment, including biodiversity, the marine environment, and international wildlife trafficking
- Air quality
- Rural life opportunities, covering rural childcare, education and skills, and health
- Floods, water and waterways
- Waste management
Dr Coffey previously served as the deputy leader of the House of Commons under Chris Grayling and served on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee until she was appointed parliamentary private secretary to Michael Fallon, minister for business and energy.
In March, Rory Stewart outlined his objective to focus on nitrogen dioxide thresholds in the battle of bringing UK’s air pollution in line with UK targets, with measures including the introduction of clean air zones in five cities— Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton (see AirQualityNews.com story).
It remains to be seen how Dr Coffey will approach future air quality challenges, including the upcoming ClientEarth court case against the UK government for illegal levels of air pollution, which is set to be heard in October (see AirQualityNews.com story) and the broader challenge of bringing UK emissions down to legal limits, as Sadiq Khan has pledged to do in London (see AirQualityNews.com story).