Letter Calls for Tighter Air Pollution Rules

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Environment and health NGOs have urged the UK Environment Secretary to be more ambitious when negotiating air pollution legislation later this month. A letter written to Liz Truss focuses on the Government’s position on the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive and attempts to weaken air pollution targets. The letter has been signed by campaign groups and charities including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the British Lung Foundation.

The letter accuses the UK Government of lobbying to weaken proposed air pollution limits and urging it to change tack and says that Liz Truss has the opportunity to secure a cleaner, healthier future or to give in to agricultural and car industry lobbying on air pollution.

It comes as crucial negotiations on the NEC Directive come to a head in Brussels on 8 June. The new law will decide how much of certain pollutants each country in the EU is allowed to emit.

Andrea Lee, Healthy Air Campaigner for ClientEarth, which co-signed the letter, said: “We want the UK Government to show leadership on air pollution in Brussels, instead it is pushing for higher pollution limits that would lead to thousands more early deaths.

“Air pollution doesn’t respect national boundaries. Given our problems with air pollution in the UK, we should be leading the way in limiting emissions of harmful pollutants from our own sources as well as from our neighbours. Every country and every sector has a role to play in protecting the health of people from air pollution.”

ClientEarth is taking the Government back to court over illegal levels of air pollution in the UK’s towns and cities. As a result of the environmental law organisation’s Supreme Court win against the government in April last year, ministers were ordered to develop plans to bring pollution within legal limits as soon as possible. The plans, produced in December, will not do this.

While fighting legal battles to avoid taking effective action on air pollution at home, the government is also agitating for higher limits for key pollutants like ammonia in Brussels, despite the government’s own experts saying reducing ammonia is the best way to reduce harmful, ultra-fine particulate matter (PM 2.5).

The letter calls on Liz Truss to:

  1. Show greater ambition in agreeing to targets to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants.
  1. Support legally binding targets for 2025 to prioritise early action to tackle air pollution; waiting until 2030 will mean more people die early unnecessarily.
  1. Agree to methane targets in order to reduce ground-level ozone, which is seriously harmful to human health.
  1. Reject unnecessary “flexibilities” that will weaken the legislation.

Read the full letter online here.