4 Commons Committees (Health, Transport, EFRA and Environment) re-launch joint inquiry on UK air pollution
Four Parliamentary Committees have re-launched their joint inquiry into improving UK air quality – for one month. The Committees are Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health, and Transport. They started a similar inquiry in March, which ended on 12th May. In July 2017, after UK courts twice ruled that the Government’s plans to cut air pollution were inadequate, the Government released a new air quality plan. The new cross-party inquiry will examine whether this new plan goes far enough, and fast enough to both meet legal limits and to deliver the maximum environmental and health benefits. The Chair of the Health committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said there are concerns that air pollution may not only cause lung and heart problems, but possibly dementia and diabetes too. Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said local authorities do not believe the Government’s plans for air pollution are adequate. Air pollution needs to be tackled by m any government departments across Whitehall working together. The joint Inquiry will hold Ministers from key Departments to account, on the effectiveness of plans to reduce air pollution. The huge role of road transport in lowering air quality is recognised. The Inquiry ends on 9th November.
Four Committees relaunch a joint inquiry on air quality
Four Committees team up to scrutinise the Government’s plans to reduce the harmful effects of air pollution on public health and the environment.
- Inquiry: Improving air quality
- Environmental Audit Committee
- Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee
- Health Committee
- Transport Committee
The Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health, and Transport Committees have re-launched their joint inquiry into improving air quality.
In July 2017, after UK courts twice ruled that the Government’s plans to cut air pollution were inadequate, the Government released a new air quality plan. The cross-party inquiry will examine whether this new plan goes far enough, fast enough to both meet legal limits and to deliver the maximum environmental and health benefits.
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Committee, said:
“There is an increasing amount of evidence showing the impact of nitrogen dioxide and invisible particulates on human health. Many people are aware of their impact on our lungs and hearts, but new evidence suggests that they could also contribute to diseases a disparate as dementia and diabetes.”
Local authorities play a central role in delivering plans on the ground. Leaders from a number of councils across England wrote to Ministerscriticising the latest plans.
Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:
“The Government are on their third attempt to meet legal air quality standards. Local authorities have said the Government’s plan for air pollution does not go far enough to help the millions of people living with illegally high levels of air pollution today. Ministers will now face unprecedented scrutiny in Parliament to ensure they are doing everything necessary to protect people from filthy air.”
With several Government departments having a role in managing air pollution, the inquiry will explore how effectively departments work together across Whitehall to tackle air pollution.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said:
“When the leaders of Liverpool, Leeds, Southampton, Oxford, Leicester and Birmingham say that the Government’s plans to reduce pollution will not allow them to meet legal pollution limits, it is a cause for concern. Our joint inquiry allows MPs to hold to account Ministers from key Departments on how effectively the Government is joining up work to clean up the UK’s air.”
Road transport is a key contributor to air pollution. The Government’s plan includes proposals for ‘clean air zones’ to limit polluting vehicles from driving in high pollution areas and an end to the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.
Lilian Greenwood MP, Chair of the Transport Select Committee, said:
“The Department for Transport needs to harness the potential of schemes such as electric vehicles, clean buses and diesel scrappage which all demonstrate that the transport sector is capable of coming up with solutions to tackle poor air quality. Real change is possible if Government leads from the front to co-ordinate an effective response to one of the biggest issues of our time.”
Terms of reference
The Committee invites written submissions on the following key questions:
- How effectively do Government policies take into account the health and environmental impacts of poor air quality?
- Do these plans set out effective and proportionate measures to achieve necessary emissions reductions as quickly as possible?
- Are other nations or cities taking more effective action that the UK can learn from?
- Is there enough cross-government collaboration to set in place the right fiscal and policy incentives?
- How can those charged with delivering national plans at local level be best supported and challenged?
Deadline for submissions
Written evidence should be submitted through the Improving air quality inquiry pageby5 pm on Thursday 9 November 2017.
The Committees value diversity and seek to ensure this where possible.
We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence.
Britain’s toxic air – especially PM2.5 particulates – ‘could cause dementia and diabetes’
The Commons health committee has warned toxic air could contribute towards dementia and even diabetes, as well as lung and cardiovascular effects. A new Inquiry by 4 parliamentary select committees, in to UK air pollution, has been started. Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the health committee, said: “There is an increasing amount of evidence showing the impact of nitrogen dioxide and invisible particulates on human health. Many people are aware of their impact on our lungs and hearts, but new evidence suggests that they could also contribute to diseases as disparate as dementia and diabetes.” The 4 committees launched a similar Inquiry in March, ending on 12th May. However, the General Election was called, and finally committees were re-constituted in September, with different membership. The Chair of the Transport Committee was Louise Ellman, and is now Lilian Greenwood. She commented that “Real change is possible if Government leads from the front to co-ordinate an effective response to one of the biggest issues of our time.” The mechanism by which PM2.5 particles could increase dementia may be through a critical Alzheimer’s risk gene, APOE4, interacts with air particles to accelerate brain ageing but the science is unclear. The mechanisms by which diabetes risk is raised are also unclear.
London’s air pollution from PM2.5 is widespread and bad – electric vehicles don’t solve the problem
New research shows just how bad air pollution by PM2.5 is across London. The latest updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, shows that every area in the capital exceeds WHO limits PM2.5, which are particularly bad for health as they penetrate deep into the lungs. The particles have serious health implications – especially for children – with both short- and long-term exposure increasing the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Young people exposed to these pollutants are more likely to grow up with reduced lung function and develop asthma. However, the main sources of PM2.5 emissions in London are from tyre and brake wear, construction and wood burning. A recent European commission research paper found about half of all particulate matter comes from tyres and brakes. Cutting the number of diesel vehicles helps reduce NO2 levels, but even converting to electric does not solve the problem of the particles from tyres and brakes. Heathrow hopes getting more vehicles on the road network near the airport might reduce air pollution enough to get its runway – but that will not solve its PM2.5 problem.
Four Select Committees launch an unprecedented joint inquiry into air pollution
MP’s from four Parliamentary select committees have combined forces to launch an unprecedented joint inquiry on air quality to scrutinise cross-government plans to tackle urban pollution hotspots. The Environmental Audit Committee, Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Health, and Transport Committees will hold four evidence sessions to consider mounting scientific evidence on the health and environmental impacts of outdoor air pollution. The Government has lost two UK court cases about its plans to tackle the key pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The High Court has ordered the Government to publish a draft new clean air plan to tackle NO2 by 24 April, with a final plan by 31 July. The European Commission has also threatened enforcement which could see the UK pay millions of pounds in fines if the Government does not within two months take steps to bring 16 UK zones within legal pollution limits. Louise Ellman, Chair of the Transport Committee (dealing with the draft NPS on Heathrow), said emissions from vehicles are a significant problem and the standards that governments have relied on have not delivered the expected reductions: “We will be asking what more can be done to increase the use of cleaner vehicles as well as to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport.” Deadline is 12th May 2017.