Row over air pollution: is it really “business as usual”?
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has rejected the findings of a critical report by a committee of MPs that said the Government will not meet EU pollution goals.
The Environmental Audit Committee has published a letter exchange between the chair of the committee, Joan Walley, and Caroline Spelman.
Walley said, “We were disappointed to see Government disagree with many of our recommendations in the response. It sets out very few policy changes and describes a ‘business-as-usual’ approach that puts us on a trajectory to fail to meet EU targets by a large margin. Air quality has slipped down the political agenda and there has been less action because of this”.
Spelman responded: “I was surprised that you see our response as a ‘business-as-usual’ approach. I can assure you that Government is certainly not complacent on air quality and we have made significant commitments across transport, energy and other policy areas that will help to improve air quality over many years”.
But before the argument descends into a game of environmental ping-pong, let’s turn the argument on its head and focus on some of the improvements Government, campaigners and businesses have made to improve air quality in transport.
The Government response said that the committee was incorrect to say that the Government had no measures in place to reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is produced by combustion engines and toxic if inhaled. However, the report did agree that speeding up the reduction in transport emissions is proving difficult.
The Government also said in its response that there have been a number of measures to promote the uptake of low carbon vehicles and support sustainable travel options. For example,Transport for London asked drivers in the capital city to turn off their engines if they are stationary for more than a minute to reduce fumes.
The Government recently announced a number of initiatives for green public transport, such as the Green Bus Fund, which allowed bus operators and local authorities to buy low carbon emission buses that will be on the road this month. Promotion of cycling, walking and other sustainable travel to ensure an alternative to travelling by car is also evident.
Blue & Green Tomorrow recently spoke to the Campaign for Better Transport whose main campaigns for the year are to make train fares more affordable and to ensure that there is a regular bus service in every part of the country.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported in their Better Retail Climate report that carbon emissions from store deliveries have been reduced, and that it is currently on target to reduce transport emissions by 15% from 2005 levels.
Although the findings of the Environmental Audit Committee report were damning and we acknowledge that more can always be done to reduce air pollution, it is good to see that Government and businesses have gone someway beyond a ‘business-as-usual’ and implementing changes to tackle air pollution.
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