Defra officials are working out what “tweaks” to make to the Clean Air Strategy before the final version is published before the end of the year.
The insight came from Harriet Wallace, deputy director for air quality and industrial emissions at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who confirmed that work is also underway on legislation to make it easier to tackle air pollution at a national and local level – such as compelling vehicle recalls for emissions failures.
Ms Wallace was speaking at the National Air Quality Conference last week (October 4) alongside speakers from charity Global Action Plan and Public Health England. The event was organised by airqualitynews.com with partners Mercedes and Fuso.
At the event, Ms Wallace explained that the Clean Air Strategy, launched for consultation in May 2018 (see airqualitynews story ), sets out actions to address emissions from a number of sources, not just roadside nitrogen dioxide emissions. This includes emissions from energy generation, industry and homes.
Importantly, she highlighted that while air pollution in general has fallen “massively” since 1970, some emissions such as ammonia , which mainly comes from agriculture, had shown less improvement. Progress with regards to particulate matter was also “flatlining”, something she said was a particular concern due to the “big health impacts’ linked to this kind of air pollution.
She said both these types of pollution were “hard nuts to crack”.
Commenting on the source of much particulate pollution —accounting for 38%— said said: “One of the huge surprises we found when working on the air quality strategy is how much is coming from domestic solid fuel combustion, which is why we have a big focus on reducing solid fuel in a domestic context.
“It hasn’t been front and centre of the air quality debate but the science says it is really important.”
Ms Wallace detailed the commitments within the strategy to reduce emissions including prohibiting the sale of the most polluting domestic fuels and stoves and halving the number of people living in locations where concentrations of primary particulate matter are above World Health Organisation guidelines.
She explained how some of the strategy commitments had already been acted upon including the publication of the Code of Good Agricultural Practice and the Road to Zero Strategy in July 2018.
Setting out the latest update, she commented: “The Clean Air Strategy consultation closed in August 2018, with the final strategy due to be published by the end of the year. We are reading through 700 odd responses.”
“We are working out what tweaks we might make to the final version of the strategy.”
On the subject of legislation, Ms Wallace said that measures would be included in the forthcoming Environment Bill.
She commented: “We are working on primary legislation to make it easy to tackle air quality – for instance making it an offence to take the emissions kit off a vehicle. A more coherent framework such and powers on smoke control and we will look to strengthening the Clean Air Act.”
The deputy director said she believed that there was scope for “real progress’ if everyone worked together.
She concluded: “We are genuinely interested to know if there are things you think can be improved as we are keen to implement the ones that are going to make a difference.”