The All Party Parliamentary Group for air pollution (APPG) held its first meeting at the House of Commons this morning (7 September) bringing together MPs, businesses and industry stakeholders.
The APPG was set up in April as a cross-party group of MPs, Peers, businesses and other stakeholders, designed specifically to look at air pollution issues in the UK (see AirQualityNews.com story).
The session was opened by Matthew Pennycook, Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, who acts as chair of the Group.
Speakers included Frank Kelly, Professor of Environmental Health at Kings College London, who spoke on the health impacts of air pollution; Alaric Lester, air quality principal consultant at Temple Group, who spoke on the technology options available to tackle air pollution, and; Cllr Heather Acton, cabinet member for sustainability at Westminster city council, who presented the local authority perspective on tackling air pollution.
Alan Andrews, Environmental Lawyer at ClientEarth spoke on the firm’s upcoming court case against the government over illegal levels of air pollution, which is set for a hearing on 18-19 October (see AirQualityNews.com story), as well as on the legal context for action on air quality in light of the UK’s impending departure from the EU.
In his opening speech, Mr Pennycook looked back at the sixty years since the Clean Air Act (1956) was introduced, noting that the country is still grappling with air pollution issues.
Commenting on the current state of air quality in the UK, he said it was a “clear cut public health crisis,â€? and that the fact this had “not provoked legislative response that is commensurable to the harm [air pollution’] is causing is one of the big sadnesses, and something we need to rectify.â€?
Professor Kelly, Mr Andrews and other speakers backed Mr Pennycook’s call for a new Clean Air Act, which has been a topic surrounding the Act’s 60th anniversary (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Alan Andrews of ClientEarth addressed issues surrounding efforts to tackle air pollution following the UK’s referendum vote to pull out of the European Union – where much of the existing impetus for action on air quality has come. ClientEarth has been among those to challenge the government for its failure to meet mandatory EU air pollution targets.
“It’s under EU law that we have a legal right to clean air,â€? Mr Andrews said, claiming it would be “foolishâ€? to deny that Brexit will have an impact.
However, he also noted that this impact will depend on the shape the UK’s relationship with the EU takes, and while we’re currently being told ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – “no one knows what that means.â€?
As such, Mr Andrews reiterated the need for a Clean Air Act, adding that “what we need is a coherent, holistic [legislative] system,â€? to protect our air quality rights.
Mr Andrews argued that current EU pollution limits are not stringent enough, and claimed Brexit has the potential for the UK to update existing laws to ‘accurately’ reflect the threat of air pollution.