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Draft Plans to Improve Air Quality (Consultation)

Volume 599: debated on Monday 14 September 2015

A cleaner, healthier environment benefits people and the economy. Clean air is vital for people’s health and the environment, essential for making sure our cities are welcoming places for people to live and work now and in the future, and to our prosperity. Our ambition is to make the UK a country with some of the very best air quality in the world.

Over recent decades, air quality has improved significantly thanks to concerted action at all levels, including investing some £2 billion since 2011 to increase the uptake of ultra low emission vehicles and cleaner transport, and supporting local authority action. Our environment has never been cleaner. Even in our busiest cities we have seen falls in harmful emissions, for example a 15% reduction in average roadside concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (N02) since 2010, but there is more we can do.

Tackling air pollution is a priority for Government. We will achieve this by exploiting new, clean technologies, such as electric and ultra low emission vehicles, to cut emissions and help our great cities function more smartly and efficiently to spur further innovation, we have opened up our data so that the whole country—people, businesses and the public sector—can use it to take better decisions and action. We will also work with our great cities to help them make the changes they need to become greater still. This could include putting in place clean air zones, improving their bus and taxi fleets, investing in cycling infrastructure and upgrading roads so they run more smoothly.

A key step is addressing reducing nitrogen dioxide in the air we breathe which will also enable us to meet the limit values laid out in the air quality directive1. By 31 December 2015 we will submit a plan to the European Commission detailing the UK approach. The proposed plan sets out national and locally led measures to bring forward compliance with the limit values in all areas of the UK. On Saturday 12 September we published the “Draft plans to improve air quality” for consultation. I have placed this in the Library of both Houses.

Alternative proposals to those set out in the consultation, that achieve the same objectives, will be considered during the consultation and we encourage local authorities and the public to put forward their ideas.

1 European Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe. This sets maximum concentrations of key pollutants in ambient air, i.e. the air that we all breathe.