The House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee has written to the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, seeking an update on progress being made towards meeting air quality targets.
The letter, sent directly to the minister by the Sub-Committee’s chair, Lord Teverson, comes after the European Commission announced that it is to begin legal proceedings against the UK government over its failure to meet air quality targets to date.
Representatives from ClientEarth and three local authorities gave evidence to the Committee last month – with concerns having been raised about air quality monitoring, as well as support for the implementation of Clean Air Zones and other measures to address illegal levels of air pollution (see airqualitynews.com story).
Following the evidence hearing, Lord Teverson has written directly to the Secretary of State to seek clarity on a number of areas relating to air quality policy.
In the letter, the Liberal Democrat peer writes that it is ‘extremely concerning’ that the UK has failed to meet legal air quality limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) since 2010, and claims that the government has not treated the issue with ‘necessary seriousness’ until only recently.
He later writes: “During our evidence session, we heard from three local authorities (Oxford, Leeds and Newcastle) about the steps they were taking to reduce NO2 and produce legally compliant air quality plans. We also heard from Katherine Nield about positive work being done in London. We heard concerns however, that the government’s approach of leaving decision making to local authorities could result in some areas failing to take effective action.â€?
Lord Teverson’s letter also outlined a number of areas where witnesses provided evidence suggesting that ‘national leadership and coordination’ were required. These included Oxford city council’s establishment of a low emission zone, ‘without guidance on what the criteria should be’, and the lack of an equivalent to the government’s Clean Bus Fund for HGVs and coaches.
He also raised concerns about the continued development of a payment portal for Clean Air Zones which has yet to be completed.
The Chair called upon the Secretary of State to provide an update on the action being taken nationally to ensure that ‘guidance and infrastructure is in place to allow local authorities to implement the Clean Air Zones and other measures necessary to meet the requirements of the Directive in a timely manner’.
Lord Teverson’s full letter to Michael Gove