Environmental Industries Commission sets out air quality policy recommendations for the next government
A 60mph speed limit on motorways and dual carriageways within Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) is one of a number of key policies needed from the next government to tackle air pollution, according to the UK environmental sector.
Ahead of the upcoming General Election on May 7 2015, the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) – which represents the UK environmental technologies and services sector â€“ today (March 3) called for a package of future policies to tackle â€œdifferent elementsâ€ of the UKâ€™s air pollution problem.
In a document entitled â€˜Priorities for the next governmentâ€™, the EIC argues that environmental issues should be at the forefront of the electionâ€™s battleground on jobs and growth, as urban air quality â€œhas not improved and traffic levels are starting to rise for the first time since the recessionâ€.
As such, the trade body is calling on the next government to support a number of policies which it claims would come at â€˜no or low public costâ€™, including the establishment of an independent statutory â€˜Committee on Air Qualityâ€™ accountable to parliament.
This Committee, the EIC says, would have similar powers and duties to the existing independent Climate Change Committee, which was set up to advise the government on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the EIC supports the introduction of a national framework for low emission zones (LEZs) â€œwith proper enforcementâ€ as well as â€˜revenue-neutralâ€™ changes to vehicle tax to â€œhalt the current trend of displacement of petrol by diesel vehiclesâ€.
And, the EIC urges the next government to reduce current 70mph speed limits on dual carriageways and motorways to 60mph where there are already Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in place to tackle high air pollution.
Claiming that â€œno other environmental issue hits the public in this wayâ€, the EIC also calls for retrofitting of old diesel buses, the continued development of zero-emission and electric vehicles, and tighter restrictions on emissions from construction site machinery.
It also states that new runway capacity in the UK â€œmust be compatibleâ€ with UK carbon and air quality targets. The Airports Commission is due to issue its final report on three options for runway capacity in the summer.
Furthermore, the EIC states that the case for promoting lower emission fuels such as LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) â€œneeds to be re-examinedâ€.
The trade body also urged the next administration to deliver a â€˜step changeâ€™ in energy efficiency, while properly enforcing both existing and new regulations.
Founded in 1995, the Environmental Industries Commission describes itself as â€˜the voice of the UKâ€™s environmental technologies and services sectorâ€™. Its members include technology manufacturers, developers, consultancies, universities and consulting engineers.
Executive director of the EIC, Matthew Farrow, said: â€œThe focus of the coming election will be competing views on how to secure future economic growth and jobs.Â Yet current growth is already putting severe pressure on our natural resources and ecosystems.
â€œThis presents an acute sustainability dilemma for the next government. The push for growth â€“ not least to reduce the deficit â€“ and the desire to build more homes, modernise our transport systems, and upgrade our energy infrastructure means that pressures on our natural resources and will get even greater over the next five years. Imagination, innovation and political will ware all needed to manage this dilemma.â€
In its recent response to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on air quality, Defra declined to commit to any major policy recommendations ahead of the General Election, but said that â€œall measures are currently being investigated furtherâ€ as part of plans to be submitted to the EU by the end of 2015 (see airqualitynews.com story).