The chair of the green lobby group Environmental Protection UK has written to Environment Secretary Michael Gove to call for â€˜ambitionâ€™ in the final draft of the governmentâ€™s air quality plan.
Lord Whitty, the Labour Peer and a former minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wrote to Mr Gove this week (3 July) calling for a new initiative to â€˜bring together policies to curb damaging levels of air pollution.â€™
Plans to reduce nitrogen dioxide were outlined by the government on 5 May, after it had been unsuccessful in postponing the deadline for publication of the proposals until after the General Election (see airqualitynews.com story). A final version of the plan is due to be published by 31 July.
In his letter, the Labour Peer has described the proposals as â€˜cautiousâ€™ and conveying â€˜no sense of urgencyâ€™ in creating a coordinated strategy to tackling air pollution.
Lord Whitty wrote: â€Whilst it is not easy to bring about rapid improvement in this area because there will need to be major changes in vehicle fleets, vehicle technology, traffic management and in several other industry sectors to get to the air quality we should all like to achieve. But I believe there is now a real public â€“ and Parliamentary â€“ appetite for tackling this problem more vigorously than hitherto and there could be a warm response on all sides for some new initiatives on your part.
â€œAny such initiatives would however have to go substantially beyond the cautious proposals which the High Court compelled your predecessor to publish shortly before the election. I have to say that those proposals seem to bear all the marks of a timid Whitehall compromise and seem to consist largely of passing the problem to inadequately resourced local authorities.
â€œFocussing on mere compliance with a European directive in a few cities (or parts of cities) they convey no sense of urgency in creating an integrated national strategy for cleaner air co-ordinated at central Government level.â€
The letter to the Secretary of State comes on the week that the government is due to appear in the High Court to hear a legal challenge by the campaign group ClientEarth over the proposals.
ClientEarth, which successfully challenged the governmentâ€™s proposals to bring emissions in line with EU legal limits through the High Court twice in 2016 and 2015, is calling for â€˜drastic improvementsâ€™ to the draft plan (see airqualitynews.com story).