Government's air quality plans unfairly shifts burden on local authorities, says CIEH

Publication Date: 15th June 2017

Subject: Environmental protection

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has criticised the Government’s air quality plans for unfairly shifting the burden to solve the problem to local authorities, while abdicating themselves of responsibility.  

The membership body for environmental health professionals is releasing details of their submission to the Government’s consultation on plans to improve air quality in the UK* on National Clean Air Day (Thursday 15 June 2017)**.

CIEH’s chief complaint is the Government has failed to recognise poor air quality is a national issue. To solve air pollution in the UK, CIEH says it requires action from central government rather than offloading responsibility onto local authorities, who are being set-up for failure if the proposed plans are to go ahead.

Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at CIEH, said: “The Government’s proposals are woefully inadequate to tackle air pollution and place far too much responsibility on the shoulders of our over-stretched local authorities.

“We stand on the cliff-edge of a national public health emergency and these plans are devoid of substantive proposals, timescales for addressing the key challenges, clarity around targets or even availability of resources to support necessary actions.”

Further grievances from CIEH focus on Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and the Government’s confidence that they are the panacea to solving air pollution.

CIEH is concerned that CAZ trials are taking place in only five English cities and have not been running long enough to demonstrate successful results. Also CAZs will lead to people seeking alternative routes to avoid the zones and will cause pollution in other areas.

The membership body has suggested that CAZs are similar to Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs), which have been operating across the UK for many years. But rather than providing a solution to air pollution, CIEH states that AQMAs have demonstrated little success and often lead to problem hotspots being relocated elsewhere. 

Other concerns CIEH has with the Government’s Air Quality plans:

  • Leaving local authorities to come up with “novel and innovative solutions” will lead to incoherent and inconsistent approaches to a national problem
  • The Government’s cost/benefit analysis fails to consider the burden on the NHS and the health implications on people and local communities, concentrating solely on business impacts
  • Overlook particulate matter as the single biggest contributor to premature deaths and ill-health, placing too much emphasis on reducing NO2 emissions
  • The two objectives of achieving NO2 compliance in the short term and the wider actions necessary to improve air quality and achieve a zero emission / low Carbon economy in the longer-term, need to be separated out.  

Within their submission, CIEH puts forward a number of proposals that the Government should consider in their final air quality plans in addition to ones that have already been suggested, including:

  • Government should provide appropriate levels of financial support to target areas where air pollution is highest and where the largest number of people are exposed
  • Local authorities need to be supported to develop a better understanding of the issue through more and better ‘real-time’ monitoring of air quality and associated health-related data
  • Reduce the number of vehicles on the road or take action to remove vehicles that do not comply with EuroVI/6 or petrol Euro 3 standards as a minimum
  • Remove tax incentives on diesel and transfer these incentives to Ultra Low Emission Vehicles and Zero Emission Vehicles infrastructure development
  • Better provision and incentives for sustainable travels plans for people to access towns, cities and workplaces via the use of public transport, cycling and walking

Tony Lewis added: “Air pollution does not recognise boundaries. All regions, towns and cities and even rural areas are affected by air pollution, leading to thousands of premature deaths every year and contributing to major illnesses. Air pollution, therefore, costs businesses and the health care services billions annually.

“This is not a political issue. We urgently need the Government to devise a robust plan, which should also include provisions for a new Clean Air Act, incorporating a national solution that is consistent, shares responsibility and ensures better funding – before it’s too late.”

ENDS 

Notes to editors 

For CIEH enquiries, please contact Steven Fifer on: 020 7827 5922 or email s.fifer@cieh.org

*PDF link to CIEH’s full submission to the Government’s consultation on improving air quality: http://www.cieh.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=62390

Link to Government consultation: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/airquality/air-quality-plan-for-tackling-nitrogen-dioxide/

**CIEH and National Clean Air Day 

CIEH is getting behind the first ever National Clean Air Day and has a selection of case studies (http://www.cieh.org/national-clean-air-day.html):

 About the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH):   

CIEH is the professional voice for environmental health representing over 7,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors. It ensures the highest standards of professional competence in its members, in the belief that through environmental health action people's health can be improved. 

Environmental health has an important and unique contribution to make to improving public health and reducing health inequalities. CIEH campaigns to ensure that government policy addresses the needs of communities and business in achieving and maintaining improvements to health and health protection.  

For more information visit www.cieh.org or follow CIEH on Twitter @The_CIEH 

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