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Pressure mounts on Defra ahead of Clean Air Package decision

EAC and shadow environment secretary urge European Commission not to drop air pollution proposals

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have written to both the UK Prime Minister and the European Commission President urging that the prospective directive on air quality is not dropped from the 2015 workplan agenda.

Published yesterday (December 15), the EAC’s letters add to a chorus of UK politicians and campaigners calling for the Clean Air Package proposals to be maintained, ahead of a final announcement from the European Commission on its 2015 workplan agenda this afternoon.

The European Commission’s Clean Air Package may be scrapped, sources report

The European Commission’s Clean Air Package is looks set to be dropped from the 2015 workplan

Former Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik – under whom the Clean Air Package was developed and announced in December 2013 – also appeared to show his support for the package, commenting this morning (December 16): “Air pollution causes over 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year. That’s 15 times more than traffic accidents. Is that ok for you?”

It follows leaked documents seen last week (December 11) by airqualitynews.com, which revealed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s intention to drop the Clean Air Package from the 2015 workplan and make amendments to the proposals in future (see airqualitynews.com story).

However, despite calls from politicians and campaigners, Defra has not commented whether or not it would support the proposed Clean Air Package being reinstated into the Commission’s 2015 agenda.

The Department has, however, this afternoon announced that 24 projects across England will receive their share of £1 million funding as part of the Air Quality Grant Programme.

EAC

Chair of the EAC, Labour MP Joan Walley, wrote in both her letter to David Cameron and to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that the Clean Air Package and Circular Economy Package of proposals are “vital environmental initiatives” which should not be terminated or delayed.

She also wrote that abandoning the policy packages “would send Europe in the wrong direction as it addresses the need for relevant and ambitious sustainability goals”.

The EAC letter to President Juncker states: “Europe should be encouraging all countries to introduce effective standards, rather than weakening our own proposals in the name of economic competitiveness. This will only lead to a ‘race to the bottom’, and environmental damage.”

Labour

Meanwhile, Labour shadow environment secretary, Maria Eagle MP, also warned against dropping the Clean Air Package this morning.

Writing to Defra minister and Conservative MP Elizabeth Truss, Ms Eagle said that as air pollution was “a serious public health issue facing our towns and cities”, she was “therefore deeply concerned that the UK government has been silent” while the European Commission has threatened to drop the Clean Air Package.

The letter to the Defra minister states: “I urge you to issue a clear statement in support of these two EU packages that not only offer vital protection to the people and the environment, but provide long-term benefits to the UK economy”.

MEPs

Defra’s silence on the issue so far comes despite cross-party support for the Clean Air Package among UK Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Green Party MEPs.

MEPs Seb Dance (Labour), Julie Girling (Conservative), Catherine Bearder (Lib Dem) and Keith Taylor (Green) are among those  to have voiced their strong support for the Package.

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