The government is â€œlooking activelyâ€ at ways to limit harmful pollutants emitted from diesel generators, Defraâ€™s Harriet Wallace has suggested.
Speaking at a Westminster Forum event in London yesterday (May 17), Ms Wallace, deputy director of Air Quality and Industrial Emissions at Defra, outlined what the department is doing to improve UK air quality.
The event saw a number of air quality experts come together from across government and industry to â€˜policy priorities, best practice and industry engagementâ€™ (see airqualitynews.com story).
Ms Wallace suggested that smaller diesel generators â€“ a combination of diesel engine and electric generators which are often used as a power-supply back up â€“ are currently exempt from NOx regulations.
She said: â€œWe are looking actively at NOx emissions from diesel generators. One issue that has come to our attention is that smaller ones are exempt from emissions regulations. Defra will consult on new measures and we want to get legislation into effect no later than January 2019.â€
The deputy director went on to highlight a number of other areas where the government was striving to improve air quality.
She claimed that over Â£2 billion had been invested in cleaner vehicles since 2011 and that the department was focussing on air quality action in six cities: London, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham and Southampton.
But delegates appeared disappointed with Defraâ€™s response â€“ with one audience member comparing its reaction to â€œprescribing paracetamol for a brain tumourâ€. Others queried a â€œlack of transparency on available dataâ€ on emissions across the UK.
Attempting to reassure delegates, Ms Wallace added: â€œThere has been a significant reduction on NO2 emissions since 2010. The government is really committed to making progress on this, but we also need to coordinate action with a range of players.â€
Earlier in the morning session, delegates had also raised the spectre of the EU Referendum â€“ and whether speakers felt air quality progress could be jeopardised by a vote to leave.
Responding to the question, Kate Harrison, solicitor and partner at Harrison Grant, said: â€œAir pollution represents a nightmare of disentanglement if we voted to leave.
â€œI think one day we will look back at people who live in houses next to roads congested by cars and think how completely uncivilised it all was. We risk going backwards.â€