MPs: government must pass a new Clean Air Act and restructure emissions legislation to tackle pollutants alongside carbon dioxide

The UK needs a new Clean Air Act, unifying and updating air quality legislation on pollutants including sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, ozone, and nitrogen oxides after it withdraws from the EU, according to MPs.

The MPs from four select committees – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, and Transport – joined forces to warn the government over its “inadequate” approach to clean air. 

They said the EU Withdrawal Bill does not make provision for post-Brexit institutional and governance arrangements for air quality and the government must set up institutions and agencies to independently enforce air quality requirements. New primary legislation should provide for UK air pollution standards at least as strict as equivalent standards in the EU, and the relevant enforcement agency must have powers, standards and enforcement mechanisms equal to those in the EU.

HM Treasury should take more account of the cost of poor air quality when establishing taxation and spending policy, the MPs complained. The report said, “current fiscal incentives for CO2 and NO2 reduction are disjointed. The Treasury must take greater account of the costs of air pollution when establishing taxation and spending policy. It must explore how existing policies to achieve CO2 reductions can be combined with air quality targets—particularly NO2 and particulate matter—to produce a single instrument that delivers on both.” The report also called on Defra to find ways of raising funds for air quality improvements. “This should first involve establishing a fund for clean air initiatives partially financed by the private sector,” set up by December this year, they said.

Among other measures, the MPs hit out at the government for its lack of ambition on phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles. They said the current plan, to halt the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, should be brought forward at least to match other countries.

 

Read the report here

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