UK unveils clean air strategy

Out-Law News | 17 Jan 2019 | 4:00 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government has published a ‘Clean Air Strategy’ aimed at cutting exposure to pollutants and slashing the costs of air pollution to society.

The strategy (109 pages / 19.3MB PDF) sets out the government’s plans for “dealing with all sources of air pollution, making our air healthier to breathe, protecting nature and boosting the economy” and complements the Industrial Strategy, the Clean Growth Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan.  

The strategy says that the government will "bring forward provisions on air quality in 2019" that will include "an up to date legislative framework for tackling air pollution at national and local level, tying this into the development of the new environmental principles and governance framework to be outlined in the Environment Bill".

Duncan O'Connor, energy and infrastructure expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com,  said that "though the proposed controls on wood-burning stoves and agricultural fertilisers had grabbed the headlines the strategy also includes an interesting acknowledgement that the different levels of regional and local government are not joined up on air quality".

O'Connor welcomed this recognition by government in the strategy that "responsibility for improving local air quality is often disconnected from strategic decisions on issues like transport and housing that can have a real impact on improving air quality".

"The strategy indicates that the government will look to address this disparity through the forthcoming Environment Bill," said O'Connor. "There is scope for bold thinking here, but many observers will be sceptical given the government’s record on tackling air quality."

Air quality is a devolved policy area and the strategy said that "close partnership-working between the nations of the UK is essential".  The strategy said that the "UK government and the devolved administrations are working together to manage transboundary air pollution and improve air quality right across the UK".

The government said it would create a “stronger and more coherent framework for action” through new legislation and that this would be "underpinned by new England-wide powers to control major sources of air pollution" and "new local powers" to take action in problem areas. The creation of 'clean air zones' and new enforcement powers will support the new framework outlined in the strategy.

According to the strategy the government will maintain its "longstanding policy of continuous improvement in relation to industrial emissions, building on existing good practice to deliver a stable and predictable regulatory environment for business as part of a world-leading clean green economy", including 'Best Available Techniques' for industrial emissions. It will work with the UK sectors to "develop a series of ambitious sector roadmaps to make UK industry world leaders in clean technology and to secure further emissions reductions".