‘Red card’ for government on air quality

Environmental Audit Committee assesses government’s air quality policies and calls for creation of new ‘Office for Environmental Responsibility’

The UK government was today (September 16) given a ‘red card’ for its efforts to reduce air pollution as part of a scorecard assessment of its green policies carried out by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

Rating the government’s environmental policies, the Committee concluded that “much more urgent action” was needed to tackle air pollution as the UK is currently failing to meet EU standards for nitrogen dioxide in 34 out of 43 zones.

The Environmental Audit Committee is currently holding an inquiry into air quality in the UK

The Environmental Audit Committee is currently holding an inquiry into air quality in the UK

And, according to the EAC, emissions of a number of airborne pollutants increased in 2013, after being steady between 2010 and 2012 and in a longer-term decline before that.

Chair of the EAC, Joan Walley MP, said: “A whole generation of young people in our cities will potentially have their health impaired by pollution before the Government meets air quality safety standards. That is not acceptable. We need to see much more urgent action in this area and we will be looking at this area in more detail when we publish the results of our inquiry later this year.”

The government also received ‘red cards’ from the EAC on wildlife protection and flooding prevention. As a result, the Committee is also calling for the creation of new legal commitments to protect the environment, to be overseen by a new ‘Office for Environmental Responsibility’ to “ensure all government policies are compatible with those commitments”.

The EAC chair said: “Our inquiry provides a wide ranging examination of the state of the environment and shows that further and continued effort is required to protect it properly. A dedicated, wide-ranging ‘Environmental Strategy’ is needed, overseen by a new ‘Office for Environmental Responsibility’ to ensure the government meets the requirements to protect human health and the natural world.”

According to the EAC, the proposed independent body would:

  • Review the Environment Strategy advocated by the EAC;
  • Advise the government on appropriate targets;
  • Advise the government on policies, both those in government programmes and new ones that could be brought forward to support the environment;
  • Advise the government about the adequacy of the resources (in both central and local government) made available for delivering the strategy;
  • Monitor and publish performance against the strategy and its targets.

Ms Walley added: “Effective action on environmental protection is essential, both during the current Parliament and beyond. Parties should therefore be considering credible environmental protection in their manifestos. I want them to use our report as both a wake-up call and a template for the measured that need to be put forward. Consistent action by successive Governments will help ensure that the benefits of nature are available to future generations as much as they are to ours.”


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