Performance against the air quality
64. The Department is still reporting slippage
against its air quality targets. Four of the seven indicators
underlying the air quality target were met in 2006-07. The exceptions
were nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and particulates (PM10s).
The slippages appear to be particularly concentrated in London.
We acknowledge that this slippage must be kept in perspective.
A failure to meet the standard at a small number of monitoring
stations counts as a failure to meet the indicator as a whole,
so that even where 90% of the country or more meets the standard,
the indicator would show slippage. That said, the consequences
of this failure are not insignificant. As we have noted before,
it is estimated that respiratory disorders associated with PM10
episodes are responsible for 8,100 additional deaths and 10,500
additional hospital admissions in the UK each year.
65. The Air Quality Strategy (AQS) published
in July 2007 sets
new standards for ultra-fine particulates. Furthermore, we note
that a new EU Directive on air quality is forthcoming, which will
also include provisions regarding fine particulates. This is likely
to increase the overall level of stringency in pollution control.
However, following the CSR 2007 the Department will no longer
have a PSA target for air quality, and there is clearly a risk
that focus will be lost in this area at a time when priorities
are shifting. We recommend that a target for the Department
to improve air quality be reinstated.
66. We note that the length of new cycle lanes
and cycle tracks delivered by local authorities has declined significantly
in 2006-07 compared to previous years. Given the need to encourage
cycling, on various grounds, the slow-down is disappointing. We
would welcome any information the Department can give us concerning
their plans to enhance the provision for cyclists. We assume such
plans are being made given the DfT's stated objective of being
a 'green' department in the lead of the struggle against climate
49 Fourth Report from the Transport Committee, Session
2006-07, Department for Transport Annual Report 2006, HC
95, page 19 Back
The overriding reason for the discrepancy between trends in emissions
of all greenhouse gases (GHGs) and those solely in CO2 is that
carbon dioxide is most closely linked to economic activity, through
consumption of fossil fuels (not least in transport, which is
still overwhelmingly reliant on oil). GHGs which have been significantly
reduced include methane from landfill sites; and 'exotic gases'
used in industrial processes, which can be replaced by substitutes,
used more efficiently, or simply used in lower quantities, partly
as a result of the relocation of heavy industry. Back
Defra, UK Climate Change Programme: Annual Report to Parliament,
p 15, p 21 Back
Environmental Audit Committee, Reducing Carbon Emissions from
Transport, 2006 Back
In 'end user' terms. HM Government, Climate Change: The UK
Programme 2006, March 2006, p 28 Back
Environmental Audit Committee press release, "Department
for Transport needs to accelerate progress to avert climate change",
7 August 2006 Back
HM Government, Climate Change: The UK Programme 2006, March
2006, p 63 Back
DfT Departmental Annual Report, Cm 7095, p.264 Back
30 January 2008, Q138 Back
Great Britain Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants
Great Britain (1998) "The quantification of the effects of
air pollution on health in the United Kingdom". The Stationery
Office. COMEAP is an Advisory Committee of the Department of Health.
Cm 7169; available at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/airquality/strategy/index.htm Back