Defra condemned for proposals – yet again – to scrap local air pollution monitoring, with danger of reducing air quality
Government plans to scrap local air pollution monitoring (again)
We strongly oppose removing the requirement for local authorities to monitor air pollution, particularly given its importance as a potential ‘showstopper’ for a third runway at Heathrow. See our recent briefing for more information about the risks of airport expansion to air pollution.
The consultation follows a similar proposal last year which we, along with over 18,000 other organisations and individuals, objected to.
For more information, please see the Campaign for Clean Air in London article.
The consultation document is available here and closes on 30th January 2015.
Defra condemned for proposals scrapping local air pollution monitoring
30.12.2014 (Clean Air in London – by Simon Birkett)
Consultation on proposals to improve local air quality management (LAQM) in England
Defra is proposing modified Option 3 from its 2013 consultation on LAQM (now Option 1), that was rejected by over 18,000 people and organisations, and to scrap ‘Further assessments’ under ‘Business as usual’. It is unclear whether Defra also intends (catastrophically) to scrap the duty on local authorities to review the need for continued assessment and reporting on objectives that have been met e.g. PM10
Defra’s plans would result inevitably in the scrapping of thousands of local monitoring sites that have taken a decade to put in place and probably all of them within a few months or years
Buried in the fine print, Defra admits that 38 of the UK’s 43 air quality zones will not be compliant with EU limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by 2015 with three zones (Birmingham, Leeds and London) unlikely to be able to comply with these limits until after 2030. Meanwhile scientists are highlighting new and much larger mortality risks for NO2
‘Clean Air in London’ rejects Defra’s proposed Option 1 and condemns the Consultation as the latest example in a string of systemic failures from a Government Department that is doing more to worsen air pollution than reduce it
…. and Clean Air in London sets out the text of their letter to Defra…. which is a long document, but can be seen in full at the link above.
A few extracts from the Clean Air in London letter relating to NO2 below:
Defra argues: there are no plans to change how local authorities (LAs) monitor nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and dangerous airborne particles (PM10); the amount of monitoring LAs undertake has always been a matter for them; and the current consultation is not recommending any outcome that would see a reduction in the monitoring of NO2 or PM10. However, there is a glaring inconsistency at the heart of Defra’s proposals i.e. it aims to reduce the ‘focus’ on monitoring without reducing monitoring. It is also disingenuous, misleading or worse for Defra to say it will not be responsible for future reductions in monitoring by LAs that arise from it scrapping reporting requirements, Regulations and/or statutory guidance. Section 88 of the Environment Act (1995) currently (rightly) imposes a duty on local authorities to follow ANY guidance issued by the Secretary of State and that guidance is currently (rightly) full of requirements for each LA to use monitoring to identify any parts of its area within which those standards are not being achieved and submit reports.
Detailed responses to Defra’s 2013 consultation made clear that Defra’s proposals would result inevitably in the scrapping of thousands of local monitoring sites that have taken a decade to put in place (see Appendix Two). In reality, virtually all local monitoring (about 10,500 monitors) is likely to be lost within a few months or years if Defra proceeds with its plans. Alarmingly, local authorities are being told to make use of Defra’s tiny national monitoring network (i.e. 137 monitors, few of which measure two or more of NO2, PM2.5 and PM10) and computer modelling that have been manipulated and used often by Defra to hide smog warnings and breaches of air pollution laws.
Under Defra’s recommended option, LAs would no longer need to publish: ‘Updating and screening assessments’ (three yearly); ‘Progress reports’ (other two years); ‘Detailed assessments’; or ‘Action plan progress reports’ on local air quality. Buried in the fine print, Defra admits that 38 of the UK’s 43 air quality zones will not be compliant with EU limit values for NO2 by 2015 with three zones (Birmingham, Leeds and London) unlikely to be able to comply with these limits until after 2030. These legally binding limits have been in legislation since 1999 to be complied with by January 2010.
Defra says: there are no plans to change how LAs monitor NO2 and PM10; the amount of monitoring LAs undertake has always been a matter for them; and the current consultation is not recommending any outcome that would see a reduction in the monitoring of NO2 or PM10. However, this is typical ‘Sir Humphrey Appleby’ language that hides the reality. The certain effect of Defra’s proposed changes would be the scrapping of monitoring by LAs as thousands of people, including local authorities and scientists, protested in response to the 2013 consultation. Only Defra’s 137 automatic monitoring stations across the UK would remain for NOx/NO2, PM2.5 and PM10 (with not many monitoring two or more pollutants) (together with a few other specialist monitors for other forms of air pollution) together with its computer modelling which is undertaken up to nine months after a calendar year end. Defra says LAs would be ‘encouraged to make use of national monitoring [and modelling]’
Clean Air in London rejects the DEFRA proposal to focus “reporting on those pollutants that remain a current issue (such as NO2 and PM10) by removing four obsolete pollutants (benzene; 1, 3 butadiene; carbon monoxide; and lead)”.
The challenge in meeting EU air quality limits is reflected at local level with local authorities having declared a large number of local air quality management areas where national objectives, especially for NO2, have not been met almost entirely as a result of road transport pollution. Past reviews of local air quality management have concluded that local authorities are very effective at diagnosing air quality hot spots but have been less effective at implementing measures to improve air quality. Given the scale of challenge we face in meeting EU pollution limits, it is more important that resources are focused on taking actions to improve air quality and reduce the public health impacts of poor air quality (pages 4 and 5).
and the full response is at