Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report

AIR POLLUTION (12735/05, 14335/05)

Letter from the Chairman to Ben Bradshaw MP, Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  Thank you for your Second Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 15 May 2006 which Sub Committee D (Environment and Agriculture) considered at its meeting yesterday.

  Action to combat air pollution is to be welcomed but there is a risk that the measures to be introduced by the proposed Directive are not as robust as they could be. The proposal would introduce a non-mandatory provision to reduce PM2.5 by an average of 20% across each Member State at urban background locations by 2020. It will be important for the Government to work with other Member States to ensure mandatory reduction requirements are introduced in the future.

  The proposed Directive also contains a provision which would allow Member States up to five years further to comply with existing limit values. This could potentially weaken the public health protection offered by the existing air quality standards. Member States must ensure its use is carefully controlled.

  We note that the proposal indicates that a new monitoring network will need to be in place by 2008 to assess compliance with the proposal. We would be grateful for clarification as to whether monitoring by each Member State will be mandatory.

15 June 2006

Letter from Ben Bradshaw MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 15 June informing me of the Committee's decision to clear the proposed Directive on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe and, the Air Thematic Strategy from scrutiny.

  This Government remains committed to protecting the public from the harmful effects of air pollution. The UK and a few others pushed for an outcome more sensitive to the human health implications of air pollution during these negotiations but were not entirely successful in achieving that objective. As you may know during Council Working Group negotiations, we championed the exposure reduction approach for fine particulate matter and pushed for mandatory obligations to be defined (subject to a review of scientific evidence). However, we faced strong opposition to our proposals since there appears to be very little political appetite in most Member States to take this step despite a significant body of scientific evidence.

  However, our negotiating position has helped to raise awareness and the Directive will eventually lead a health improvement for a wide section of the population. Exposure reduction moves away from the current approach of controlling air pollution in highly localised hotspots such as street corners where there may be few people, or where people do not spend long periods of time. It focuses on percentage reductions in concentrations of fine particulate levels in areas where most of the population lives, and therefore will lead to better air quality for a wider section of the community.

  The draft Directive introduces new standards for fine particulates, and requires air quality monitoring in urban background areas. Turning to your question, it will be mandatory for Member States to compulsorily increase the number and types of air pollution monitoring equipment currently in place in order to be able to comply with the reporting requirements of the Directive.

28 June 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Ben Bradshaw MP

  Thank you for your letter of 28 June in reply to my letter of 15 June regarding the Directive on Ambient Air Quality and the associated Thematic Strategy. Sub-Committee D (Environment and Agriculture) considered your letter at its meeting on 19 July.

  We welcome the agreement on new air pollution limits but support your assertion that mandatory obligations should be defined. We recommend that the Government should continue to work with the European Parliament and the other Member States to ensure that mandatory obligations for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are set in regulation as soon as the reliable measurement of such matter is established as technically possible.

20 July 2006

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