Environmental Protection now: evidence, policies and action

An Environmental Protection UK session at AQE Telford, in celebration of our 120th year

Workshop Room 6 on Wednesday 21 November, 2pm-4pm

The civil society body that is now EPUK started at the Coal Smoke Abatement Society in 1898. Since then the Society has gained considerable experience of developing clean air policy and putting it into practice. This is strengthened by active involvement of our local authority members, whose knowledge of the practical side of environmental protection in the UK is unparalleled. A key insight gained over the years is that there is no substitute for knowledge in planning for environmental improvement nor in taking effective action.

This conference session is free of charge to all interested parties and will take place in Workshop room 6 at AQE between 2pm and 4pm. These talks will explore this insight as it effects our work today. They will consider what has worked best in the past and, in respect of today's challenges, what will work best in future. This seminar will also include a Q&A session and discussion.

"What next for air quality in the UK: new legislation and policies"

Sarah Legge. Chair of the Air Quality Committee, Environmental Protection UK, and Director of SLH Environmental Ltd.

Sarah will be talking about new and upcoming national air pollution legislation and strategies, and considering the implications of these for local authorities and the air pollution industry. This will include the Clean Air Strategy and how it relates to both the National Emission Ceiling Directive and local action.  This will also include comment on the National NO2 Plan and associated work around Clean Air Zones, and the implications of the government’s latest supplement to this plan.  The government are proposing amendments to the Local Air Quality Management regime, due to be released this autumn, and Sarah will be discussing some of the key issues around this. 

If information becomes available, this session can also consider the implications of Brexit on air quality; and the new Environment Act, and its clean air aspects.

"Delivering Environmental Protection: Regulation and other Channels"

John Murlis, Trustee, Environmental Protection UK.

European air quality legislation provides a framework of air quality objectives, including ambient air pollution limit values, designed to protect human health. Although measures taken to meet the requirements of the legislation have in many cases produced an improvement in air quality, in others ambient levels have not responded to measures taken, to the extent that there are significant areas in the EU which do not comply with the legislation.

Analysis shows that, for a large proportion of the non-compliant areas, in particular in rapidly growing urban areas, transport systems and residential heating are the major source of air pollution.  Although implementation of EU exhaust emission standards has reduced emission from the newer parts of transport fleets, increased demand for transport services means that there are higher vehicle numbers and that the older parts of the fleets remain in service. Fuel prices and relative energy poverty have ensured that the expected growth in more efficient and cleaner sources of residential heating has not materialised in practice.

The failure within such urban areas to achieve EU air quality norms can be seen as an indication of priorities for town and city planners: transport systems are allowed to grow without constraint, regardless of the consequences. Old housing stock and apartment buildings remain in service and development priorities have been new stock for rapidly growing populations.

However, priorities are shifting as increasingly cities and other urban areas are in competition for businesses, skills and people and for the investment needed to provide suitable accommodation and infrastructure. The pressures of competition are driving urban planning authorities to reprioritise, with quality of life for people and resource efficiency in the provision of the built environment as emerging concerns. These factors combine favourably for air quality, directly as clean air is an important part of quality of life and indirectly as more sustainable approaches to delivery of energy services are characterised by low emissions.

This presentation will explore the options for linking more sustainable, low emission transport and residential heating with the pressure for more sustainable and liveable urban environments. The benefits of such an approach will be considered, including overall health benefits. Whatever theoretical benefits may follow an approach based on sustainable urban energy strategies, however, the key issue of practical implementation remains. This paper will also consider current initiatives, including those within EU research programmes, to pioneer novel approaches to reducing harm from air pollution.