Defra promises action at National Air Quality Conference

Dr James Cooper sets out UK government plan to reduce air pollution at National Air Quality Conference in Birmingham

Defra has promised to commit resources to tackling air pollution at a “local, regional and national level” at the National Air Quality Conference in Birmingham today (October 1).

Dr James Cooper, head of local and national air quality at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, told delegates that the government is “getting its house in order” and would prioritise ‘real world’ emissions testing.

Defra assured delegates it was working to reduce air pollution by 2025

Defra assured delegates it was working to reduce air pollution by 2025

But, he added that air quality is still “very much a local problem concentrated in our major cities”.

Dr Cooper said: “The government is introducing real world testing for driving emissions to ensure public confidence as soon as possible and the UK will continue to push for this at an EU level.

“The government is getting its house in order with 96 projects in 72 local authorities. We are going to set up a framework for new Clean Air Zones, which will support these local authorities. This will be set up next year.”

He continued that Defra’s consultation on Clean Air Zones had received interesting feedback on the barriers which councils need to overcome and what actions should be integrated into the plan.

Asked by one delegate how Defra could be sure it can reduce air pollution in spots around the UK given the “relatively small sample size and widely varying results” of Euro 6 standards, Mr Cooper replied the department could only go on the “best available data” available to it.

Air Quality

Alan Andrews of ClientEarth also spoke at the conference

Alan Andrews of ClientEarth also spoke at the conference

Dr Cooper was speaking during the first session of the Air Quality Conference, chaired by news editor Michael Holder.

Other representatives on the panel included Birmingham city councillor Lisa Trickett, cabinet member for sustainability, the Scottish Government’s air quality policy manager Andrew Taylor and ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews.


Responding to the state of air quality in the UK, Mr Andrews slammed the government for “more dithering and more delays”.

He added that the current administration sees air quality as “green crap” and a “hindrance to economic growth”.

Mr Andrews said: “I’m not going to criticise Defra I think they are trying to do whatever they can but they have been left high and dry by other departments who could not care less about air quality.”

On the ongoing Volkswagen emissions scandal he added: “We have seen the car industry quite rightly come under a lot of pressure. Hopefully it will lead to massive in pressure in Brussels. We need to see the new Euro 6 standard introduced as soon as possible.

“We want to see a national network of Clean Air Zones, real driving emission tests by 2017 and reform of the testing regime.”


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