Environmental law campaign group ClientEarth has expressed concerns at the government’s consultation on its supplementary NO2 plan, published today (29 May).
The consultation, published today (29 May) by the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) seeks views on measures that the ‘third wave’ of councils obligated under the government’s NO2 plan could take to address nitrogen dioxide emissions (see airqualitynews.com story).
33 councils have been ordered to carry out feasibility studies to assess whether they can implement any measures that could be implemented to bring forward legal compliance with air quality limits, after ClientEarth challenged the government’s 2017 Air Quality plan in the High Court (see airqualitynews.com story).
The consultation today, sets out some of the measures that these authorities could consider to achieve compliance, including encouraging greater use of public transport, walking and cycling, tweaking road layouts and changing traffic signalling to reduce congestion.
However, ClientEarth has said it is ‘surprised and disappointed’ by the content of the consultation – in particular the assertion that ‘no significant new evidence’ on measures to tackle air pollution are expected to arise.
Within the text of the consultation, the government stated: “The government has consulted on similar issues several times over the past two years. For example, we consulted on the Clean Air Zone Framework in October 2016, on the NO2 Plan itself in May 2017, and on additional measures to support individuals and businesses affected by local NO2 plans in November 2017.
“Accordingly we are not anticipating that significant new evidence will emerge from this consultation, though we warmly welcome suggestions and will carefully consider all responses and communicate them promptly to the appropriate local authorities where relevant.”
Responding to the consultation, ClientEarth lawyer Katie Nield, said: “We’re surprised and disappointed by what has been put out today. Last week, the government heralded its Clean Air Strategy as the solution to our air pollution problems. That strategy contained very little on road transport, as government claimed this would be taken care of by its Air Quality Plan.
“The consultation out today is about emissions from road transport but says the government is not anticipating any ‘significant new evidence’ to help it produce a plan. This is a government that’s run out of ideas.”
As part of ClientEarth’s High Court victory against ministers in February, Mr Justice Garnham gave the environmental law organisation the right to return to court if it felt elements of the government response were not up to scratch.
Nield added: “This consultation does not fill us with hope for the final plans due out in October. We will be examining them very carefully when they do come out.”