Farming lobby ‘threaten progress’ on vital air pollution laws

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British MEPs are being pressured by the agriculture lobby to water down proposed new EU air pollution legislation being voted on this week.

The National Emission Ceiling (NEC) Directive will set new limits on national emissions of harmful air pollution and is essential to achieving better air quality in the UK, where air pollution is estimated to cause tens of thousands of early deaths each year.

MEPs, led by British politicians Catherine Bearder and Seb Dance, have pushed for stronger cuts in pollution. But they are facing pressure from the UK Government and the farming lobby to water down targets for methane and ammonia – two pollutants linked with farming.

Alan Andrews, air pollution lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “The UK government claims that reducing air pollution is a ‘priority’ after the Supreme Court ordered it earlier this year to clean up the UK’s air. Its efforts to undermine this Directive shows how weak its resolve is.

“In particular, it wants lower targets for ammonia and wants to scrap methane targets completely. If it’s successful is will further compromise the already insufficient efforts to protect people’s health from air pollution.”

ClientEarth believes the Government is acting under pressure from farming lobbyists as their position directly reflects the views of the National Farmers’ Union.

In July 2015 the NFU has expressed “bitter disappointment” at ammonia and methane targets. Previously NFU chief environment adviser Dr Diane Mitchell said they had “serious concerns” about the target.

Alan Andrews said: “It is unacceptable for the Government to behave in this way. They are putting the farming industry ahead of our health.”