air pollution

General Election 2017: Which Seats Could be Decided by Energy and Climate Issues?

Map of south east England

While Brexit may be making the national headlines, some voters are looking for MPs that share their concerns on a range of local climate and energy issues — from fracking, to air pollution and airport expansion.

With the general election just over a week away, DeSmog UK runs through the constituencies where candidates’ positions on energy and climate change issues could be decisive.

Revealed: Local Authorities Failing to Report on Air Pollution Due to 'Stretched Resources'

Air pollution protestors in Edinburgh

Air pollution in the UK has been described as a “public health crisis”. But many local authorities are failing to fulfil their legal requirements on air quality reporting due to a lack of resources, documents obtained by DeSmog UK show.

The information raises questions about the effectiveness of the government’s decision to continue to put responsibility for addressing air pollution on local authorities.

Documents and correspondence with officials in local authorities across the Midlands show reporting failures in many areas with illegal levels of air pollution. Almost all of the local authorities fall within areas that voted heavily for Brexit, putting air quality regulations further at risk.

Minister Claims UK Pushed for Stricter Diesel Rules When it Actually Tried to Weaken Them

car exhaust

The government is getting good at putting a spin on its air pollution plans (or lack of them) ahead of the June 2017 general election.  

On Thursday, it told the high court it wanted to delay the publication of a new air quality strategy to “comply with pre-election propriety rules”. The court had previously ordered the government to release the report by Monday, after an earlier plan was judged to have been insufficiently ambitious.

The request for the delay comes shortly after the transport minister, John Hayes, tried to persuade parliament that the UK was at the forefront of European efforts to improve air quality from diesel emissions — when in fact the opposite appears to be true.

Government is Trying to Put Itself Above Environmental Law, Green Groups Warn

Smog over London

The UK government hates to be held accountable in court when it breaks environmental laws like those on air quality. So it has created new rules – coming into force this week – that expose environmental litigants to unlimited financial liabilities, writes Oliver Tickell of The Ecologist. Now three leading NGOs have gone to the High Court to argue that the rules themselves are in breach the UK's international obligations.

New rules coming into force today will make it virtually impossible to bring a public interest case - like ClientEarth's air pollution challenge - to protect the environment.

The new rules weaken financial protection for people or organisations bringing a case against the government, meaning they risk having to pay the government's full, unlimited legal costs in return for going to court to protect the environment.

Local Authorities Struggle to Tackle Air Pollution Due to Government Cuts

Traffic contributes to air pollution in London

Local authorities are unlikely to be able to tackle air pollution due to government cutbacks, as London continues to struggle to implement air quality controls.

Speaking at an event organized by the student-led Kings thinktank last week, IPPR research fellow Laurie Laybourn-Langton claimed “local authorities don’t have the money” to address air quality issues, as government has “hollowed out the middles of these organisations, leaving them without time and space to act”.

High Court Gives UK Government Eight Months to Draw up Fresh Air Quality Plan

Air pollution mask on London statue

The UK Government has been ordered by a High Court judge to draw up an improved plan by July next year which must bring air pollution within legal limits.

Setting out his order in court on 21 November, concluding ClientEarth's case against the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Justice Garnham gave the Government until 24 April 2017 to produce a draft plan and 31 July to deliver a final one.
The Judge rejected the Government's suggested timetable which would have allowed it until September of next year to produce a final plan, saying it was “far too leisurely”.

Brexit Could Become 'Catch-all Excuse' To Push Aside Green Regulations in Response to Industry Lobbying, Experts Warn

House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee

Experts today urged lawmakers to stay strong in the face of industry lobbying to weaken the UK’s climate policies and environmental regulations as part of a ‘hard’ Brexit.

The comments were made at an oral evidence session of the House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment sub-committee. The committee is conducting an inquiry entitled ‘Brexit: environment and climate change’ to inform a report due in early 2017.

Professor Michael Grubb from University College London told Lords that he is increasingly aware of a narrative that Britain is desperate for foreign investment and will do anything to make itself industry friendly.

EU Allowing Coal Lobbyists to ‘Set Their Own Air Pollution Standards’

The UK is one of several European governments allowing energy industry representatives to help draw up the European Union’s (EU) new air pollution standards, a Greenpeace investigation has found.

The EU is currently in the process of drafting new standards to limit pollution from coal-fired power stations. However, this “once-in-a-decade opportunity” has been captured by the coal industry Greenpeace claims and could result in “extremely lax” emission limits.

Not only would most of the existing plants be allowed to pollute several times more than could be achieved by adopting the best clean technologies available,” the environmental NGO said, “but EU standards would also be significantly weaker than those imposed in other parts of the world, including China.”

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