Clean Air in London says Defra NO2 consultation is a ‘Plan for plans by others’ and inadequate
The Supreme Court ruling in April said DEFRA must consult on strict new air pollution plans that must be submitted to the European Commission (EC) by 31 December 2015, in accordance with a mandatory order in ClientEarth vs Defra. Shortly before the result of the Labour leadership election on 12th September, DEFRA announced a consultation, to end of 6th November. This consultation is a necessary step before the UK lodges formal plans with the EC. It proposes to restrict diesel vehicles from a number of city centres by 2020, and impose charges on them. However, “Clean Air in London” (CAL) says this passes all responsibility, without money or new powers, to local authorities – and is a “plan for plans by others.” They say DEFRA is flouting the Supreme Court ruling and provoking the EC. They want the EC to send the UK a Reasoned Opinion (a.k.a. final written warning) on NO2 by February 2016. CAL says the consultation shows DEFRA does not understand that limit values must be achieved everywhere. This has major consequences for runway schemes at Heathrow or Gatwick, and also HS2, because consent for a scheme should not allow an area that is compliant to become non-complaint on air quality, or delay the ability of a non-complaint area to become compliant.
The National Networks National Policy Statement sets out “that consent should be refused where, after taking into account mitigation, the air quality impacts of a scheme will result in a currently compliant zone or agglomeration becoming non-compliant; or affect the ability of a non-compliant area to achieve compliance within the most recent timescales reported to the European Commission at the time of the decision.” [Page 28 of Link ]
Defra NO2 consultation: ‘Plan for plans by others’ is inadequate
12.9.2015 (Clean Air in London)
Defra buries consultation for diesel bans in cities minutes before Corbyn announcement
Consultation promises further consultation in ‘early 2016’ on a ‘four tier’ national framework to ban or charge pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles entering ‘Clean Air Zones’ in at least eight UK cities by 2020 but passes all responsibility, without money or new powers, to local authorities. Instead, diesel exhaust must be banned from the most polluted places as coal burning was banned so successfully 60 years ago
Consultation documents reveal that 80% of NO2 legal breaches are due to road transport and no change in NO2 concentrations at eight long-running urban traffic sites since 2002
Defra is flouting the Supreme Court ruling and provoking the European Commission. CAL hopes ClientEarth will reject this ‘plan for a plan by others’ and return quickly to the Supreme Court and urges the European Commission to send the UK a Reasoned Opinion (a.k.a. final written warning) on NO2 by February 2016
Defra also shows it does not understand that limit values must be attained everywhere, with three exceptions, with major consequences for scheme developers such as Heathrow and HS2
First national estimate reveals 23,500 deaths attributable to NO2 taking national total to 52,500
Defra launched its consultation on plans for a diesel ban in cities to comply with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limit values on a Saturday morning minutes before Jeremy Corbyn MP was elected as leader of the Labour Party.
The Consultation and ‘Draft UK overview document’ can be seen here:
DEFRA consultation documents
The Consultation is a necessary step for Defra before the UK lodges formal plans with the European Commission by 31 December 2015 in accordance with a mandatory order from the Supreme Court in ClientEarth vs Defra.
The Consultation closes on Friday 6 November 2015.
Key points in the ‘Draft UK overview document’ include:
- the first national estimate of 23,500 deaths attributable to NO2 in the UK (paragraph 8 on page 5);
- promising a further consultation in ‘early 2016’ on a ‘four tier’ national framework to ban or charge pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles entering ‘Clean Air Zones’ in at least eight UK cities by 2020 but passes all responsibility, without money or new powers, to local authorities (section 4.3.6 from page 32);
- 80% of NO2 legal breaches are due to road transport (paragraph 204 on page 42). Other key sources are energy, manufacturing, the construction industry and processes; and
- no ‘clear’ change in NO2 concentrations at eight long-running urban traffic sites since 2002 (page 50).
Clean Air in London says Defra has shown it fundamentally misunderstands its legal duties by:
- flouting the Supreme Court ruling to submit proper plans to the European Commission by 31 December 2015 by intending instead to submit a ‘plan for plans by others’ as it did when it applied unsuccessfully to the European Commission for a time extension to comply with NO2 limit values in September 2011;
- making little or no effort to comply with NO2 limit values in at least 28 UK zones before 2020, seven more before 2025 and London before 2030 unless others choose to adopt its ‘plan for a plan’ of ‘Clean Air Zones’. Perhaps it does not care, simply hoping to do enough to blame others for a public health catastrophe and justify passing any European Union fines for non-compliance with NO2 limit values since January 2010 to cities and local authorities under the Localism Act 2011; and
- showing it does not understand that limit values must be achieved everywhere (with three small exceptions) with major consequences for scheme developers such as Heathrow and Gatwick airports and HS2. It does so by suggesting wrongly that developments can proceed unless: “the air quality impacts of a scheme [after taking account of mitigation] will result in a currently compliant zone or agglomeration becoming non-compliant; or affect the ability of a non-compliant area to achieve compliance within the most recent timescales reported to the European Commission at the time of the decision” (paragraph 115 on page 28). Link
“113. England and Wales have a bespoke planning system for major infrastructure projects introduced through the 2008 Planning Act – the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning (NSIP) regime. In England the regime covers transport infrastructure, including the provision of road and rail infrastructure, which is also subject to strict consideration of air quality requirements.
“114. The National Networks National Policy Statement (2014) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-policy-statement-for-national-networks sets out the need for, and policies to deliver, nationally significant road and rail infrastructure projects in England. It recognises that increases in emissions of pollutants during the construction or operation of projects can result in the worsening of local air quality in some cases. Accordingly decisions on projects are required to consider air quality impacts over wider areas which are likely to be affected, as well as areas in the near vicinity of a scheme.
“115. The statement sets out how decisions on road and rail infrastructure must take account of relevant statutory air quality thresholds, including those for NO2. Where a road or rail project is likely to lead to a breach of the thresholds appropriate mitigation measures should be secured to ensure, so far as possible, they are not breached. It also sets out that consent should be refused where, after taking into account mitigation, the air quality impacts of a scheme will result in a currently compliant zone or agglomeration becoming non-compliant; or affect the ability of a non-compliant area to achieve compliance within the most recent timescales reported to the European Commission at the time of the decision.”
CAL (Clean Air in London) publishes evidence below that shows Defra knew by February 2009 that a national network of low emission zones was needed to comply with NO2 limit values and applied unsuccessfully to the European Commission on the same basis in September 2011.
Only now does Defra promise to consult further on a national framework of London-style so-called ‘ultra-low emission zones’ in early 2016. Its ‘four tier’ framework might be the basis for widespread charging or bans of pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles.
Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, said:
“The biggest news in Defra’s consultation is the first national estimate of 23,500 deaths attributable to nitrogen dioxide (NO2). This is a staggering number on top of 29,000 deaths attributable to fine particles (PM2.5) in 2010 but it is also perhaps surprisingly low given that the Mayor of London estimated two months ago some 5,900 such deaths attributable to NO2 in London alone in 2010. We await COMEAP official estimates.
“Clean Air in London (CAL) welcomes Defra’s promise to set out a full national framework for ‘Clean Air Zones’ in early 2016 and work closely with local authorities to ensure that the framework gives the guidance they would find most relevant and useful. But this effort will: miss the Supreme Court’s deadline of 31 December; start more than six years after legal limits had to be met everywhere and 16 years after the legislation requiring it; and at the end of it achieve nothing more than a framework for cities local authorities and others to spend years more deciding whether or not to adopt it. Many cities have already chosen to reject similar schemes although admittedly they could not rely on a national framework. In contrast, Germany and others already have scores of low emission zones.
“Put bluntly, Defra is flouting the Supreme Court ruling, provoking the European Commission and misleading developers with statements that show it fails fundamentally to understand that limit values apply everywhere, with three small exceptions, and must be achieved irrespective of cost to protect public health.
“CAL hopes ClientEarth will reject this ‘plans for plans by others’ and return quickly to the Supreme Court and urges the European Commission to send the UK a Reasoned Opinion (a.k.a. final written warning) on NO2 by February 2016. CAL also urges Parliament’s powerful Environmental Audit Committee to launch a fourth Air Quality Inquiry next week to scrutinise Defra’s plans and investigate how public health can be protected and NO2 limit values can be achieved everywhere before 2020.
“Frankly, the only way to protect public health and comply fully with legal limits is to ban diesel from the most-polluted areas. Let’s do so positively, by encouraging positive measures such as active travel (e.g. walking and cycling) and triggering a massive shift to fewer, cleaner and greener vehicles. By doing so, the UK can be a world leader again as it was so successfully 60 years ago after banning coal burning in cities.
“Last but not least, CAL has found no convincing evidence in Defra’s consultation documents that the NO2 annual limit value will be complied with in full in London by 2030 never mind 2025 (as Defra claims may be possible). CAL therefore invites all the Mayoral and London Assembly candidates to pledge support for Clean Air in London’s draft Clean Air Manifesto with a commitment to deliver full compliance with air pollution laws throughout London by 2020 not 2025 or 2030 as Defra and Boris Johnson propose.
“Defra’s plan it is simply not good enough. Exactly four years after it applied unsuccessfully for a time extension to comply with NO2 limit values, Defra is still saying we need a national framework for low emission zones and that others must implement them.”
Alan Andrews, of ClientEarth, said: “We need to see plans that deliver clean air as soon as possible. Anything less and we will have no hesitation in taking Truss back to court.”
CAL’s draft Clean Air Manifesto for the Mayoral and London Assembly elections in 2016
And there is lots more from CAL at
Also Sunday Times article (£) at:
Eight urban areas set to ban diesel
The report includes the first official figure for the number of deaths caused by NO2, which it puts at 23,500 people a year. This is in addition to the 29,000 people estimated to be killed prematurely by particulates — tiny particles of oily soot — which are pumped out by diesels, especially older ones.
The document, which may have an impact on the planned expansion of Heathrow airport, signals an acceptance of the need for “access controls” to prevent or restrict such vehicles’ entry to urban areas, including imposing “emission charges” for driving or parking in specified “low-emission zones”.
The Defra document says the long-term answer lies in a shift to electric and other low-emission vehicles, but, in the short term, the only answer is to set up “clean-air zones” where diesels are restricted or banned. One such zone is already planned for London in 2020. Under the scheme, drivers of older diesel vehicles will be charged £12.50 extra each day to enter the city, in addition to the £11.50 congestion charge.
and Daily Mail at
Landmark air pollution ruling by Supreme Court could scupper 3rd runway at Heathrow due to high NO2 level
The UK Supreme Court has quashed the Government’s ineffective plans to cut illegal levels of air pollution in Britain and ordered it to deliver new ones by the end of the year. The Supreme Court Justices were unanimous in their decision, saying: “The new Government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue.” This could have implications for a 3rd runway at Heathrow, as areas around the airport continue to be stubbornly above the EU legal limits. That is due both to air pollution from the planes in addition to the huge amount of traffic on the M4 and M25. In their verdict, 5 judges ordered the Secretary of State at DEFRA to consult on strict new air pollution plans that must be submitted to the European Commission by 31 December 2015. The EU Air Quality Directive demanded the UK brought pollution down to legal limits by 2010 or apply for an extension by 2015. But the government in 2011 said that a number of areas, including London, would be unable to comply by 2015 and instead argued the law allowed it to comply “as soon as possible”. The judgement marks a victory for the campaigning legal firm ClientEarth. HACAN commented: “This is a potential show-stopper as far as a 3rd runway is concerned.”