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.
Defra and DfT set up joint air quality team – the JAQU (Joint Air Quality Unit)
By MICHAEL HOLDER (Air Quality News)
UK departments for transport and the environment have set up a joint unit specifically to deliver recent national plans to improve air quality and meet EU limits, it has emerged.
An email sent to stakeholders this week (April 18) and seen by Air Quality News, explains that a new joint unit between the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport (DfT) has been established.
A spokeswoman for Defra also confirmed to AirQualityNews.com that the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) has been set up.
The new Unit will focus on delivering the UK’s national air quality plans to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide. These plans were publicly consulted on by Defra last year and include proposals to establish Clean Air Zones in five UK cities by 2020 (see AirQualityNews.com story).
According to the email, 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.
It will work “particularly closely” with the cities required or wishing to implement Zones, Defra said.
A number of Defra and DfT colleagues who worked to develop these plans have transferred into the new Unit, while others are involved as part of a wider virtual team, the email explains.
Although hosted at Defra, the new team will contain both Defra and DfT staff as well as the close involvement of a number of other government departments and delivery bodies.
Led by Defra’s deputy director of flood risk management, Susanna May, the Unit will report through both departments to Defra air quality minister Rory Stewart and Under-Secretary of State for Transport Andrew Jones.
Day-to-day responsibility for air quality matters will remain with Defra, including that for local air quality management, EU and international aspects of air quality and industrial emissions.
National air quality work regarding non-NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) pollutants will also continue to be taken forward by the Defra air quality and industrial emissions team.
Meanwhile, work on wider environmental issues related to transport are still being taken forward by DfT and its teams for international vehicle standards, roads and aviation will remain unchanged.
The Joint Air Quality Unit will maintain “very strong links” with all these work areas, according to the Defra email.
News that a joint unit has been established comes as the government faces the threat of further court action from environmental NGO ClientEarth over its recent air quality plans to meet EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Further details of the court action are expected can be seen at “Judge gives ClientEarth permission to pursue a JR against UK government over air quality” April 28, 2016 at https://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2016/04/judge-gives-clientearth-permission-to-pursue-a-jr-against-uk-government-over-air-quality/
ll 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.
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