All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution set up, as greatly increased interest in air quality by MPs
A cross-party Parliamentary group of MPs, Peers, businesses and other stakeholders has been set up to specifically look at air pollution issues in the UK, with Labour MP Matthew Pennycook (MP for Greenwich) acting as its chair. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution held its inaugural meeting on 26th April, and 3 vice-chairs were also elected (Daniel Poulter; Helen Hayes;and Baroness Sheehan). Trade organisation the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) will act as secretariat for the Group, through its chief executive, Matthew Farrow. More interested MPs will be recruited. There has recently been a much increased level of interest in air pollution, especially in NO2 – brought into the spotlight by the VW “defeat” devices scandal. The emergence of the group is timely, after the news that ClientEarth has permission to pursue its JR against the government, to get improvements in air quality more rapidly. A week or so earlier, a new joint body between Defra and the DfT was set up – JAQU, Joint Action on Air Quality – to deliver national plans on air quality. Heathrow’s hopes of a 3rd runway are at risk, due to legal levels of NO2 already being breached. Gatwick also risks breaching legal limits, if it had a second runway.
Parliament sets up cross-party air pollution group
By MICHAEL HOLDER (Air Quality News)
A cross-party Parliamentary group of MPs, Peers, businesses and other stakeholders has been set up to specifically look at air pollution issues in the UK, with Labour MP Matthew Pennycook acting as its chair.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday evening (April 26), at which MP for Greenwich Mr Pennycook, who was instrumental in setting up the group, was elected chair.
Three vice-chairs were also elected at the meeting: Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Daniel Poulter; Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, Helen Hayes; and Liberal Democrat Peer, Baroness Sheehan.
Perhaps tellingly, the chair and two of the vice chairs either represent, or have previously represented, London constituencies in the House of Commons, with only Mr Poulter being based outside UK’s capital – which has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the UK.
Trade organisation the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) will act as secretariat for the Group, for which a “big programme of events” are not being planned alongside further recruitment of interested stakeholder businesses and organisations as members.
“We are conscious that it is a very complex issue – there are many different airborne pollutants and different technology options” – Matthew Farrow, EIC
Matthew Farrow, executive director of the EIC, said that while it was still “early days” the remit of the APPG would be “technology neutral” and focus on a range of airborne pollutants beyond just NO2 and particulate matter.
Speaking to AirQualityNews.com, Mr Farrow said: “Air quality has been a big, big issue for a long time but gradually there has been a lot more attention on it in the media. But, while that is all good, we are conscious that it is a very complex issue – there are many different airborne pollutants and different technology options.
“We also felt that there was much-increased interest among MPs and so there was a great deal of merit in setting up this group.”
He said the timing of the new Group was pertinent, as with Defra facing further court action from Client Earth, the EU referendum and the EFRA report on air pollution earlier this week “this is a big year for air quality”.
Mr Farrow added: “It is something we have been working on for a little while with Matthew Pennycook MP, who was elected the chair this week. He is a London MP for Greenwich and so has a lot of interest in this subject.”
Judge gives ClientEarth permission to pursue a JR against UK government over air quality
Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have been granted permission to take the UK government back to court, over its failure to tackle illegal levels of air pollution. A judge at the High Court has granted their request to pursue a Judicial Review against Defra. ClientEarth’s CEO James Thornton said the decision by the court to grant a hearing was a victory in itself. “The UK government has claimed that it has done everything required by last year’s Supreme Court ruling. By granting us permission to return to court the judge has decided that the government does indeed have a case to answer.” ClientEarth lodged papers at the High Court in London in March – naming the UK Environment Secretary Liz Truss as defendant. Papers were also served on Scottish and Welsh ministers, the Mayor of London and the DfT as interested parties in the case. ClientEarth said the government’s lastest plans are woefully inadequate and won’t achieve legal sir quality limits for years to come. ClientEarth believes the government is in breach of its legal duty to produce new air quality plans to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the “shortest possible time”, despite being ordered to do so by the UK Supreme Court. ClientEarth has asked judges to strike down the plans produced by the government in December, order new ones and intervene to make sure the government acts. #no2dirtyair
Defra and DfT set up JAQU (Joint Air Quality Unit) to deliver national plans to cut NO2 levels
A new joint unit between Defra and the DfT has been established, to deliver national plans to improve air quality and meet EU limits. The new body, the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) has been set up to do this and will be hosted at Defra. It will be led by Defra’s deputy director of flood risk management, Susanna May. The JAQU will report to Defra air quality minister, Rory Stewart, and Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones. It will focus on delivering the UK’s national air quality plans to reduce levels of NO2. These plans were publicly consulted on by Defra last year and include proposals to establish Clean Air Zones in five UK cities by 2020. The Unit will develop more detailed proposals for the Clean Air Zone framework and legislation to mandate zones in certain cities, with a view to consulting on these later this year. A number of Defra and DfT staff who worked to develop these plans have transferred into the new Unit. Day-to-day responsibility for air quality matters will remain with Defra. Work on aviation matters will still be taken forward by the DfT. The new unit is timely, as ClientEarth have been given permission to take further legal action against the government on its slow progress to improve UK air pollution.