The UK government has failed to report to Parliament on its planned action to address air pollution, ignoring the deadline set by a committee of MPs.
In April this year, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efra), a cross-party parliamentary group which acts as a policy watchdog for Defra, published a report requiring the government to take action on air pollution before certain deadlines.
In its report, Efra recommended the Cabinet Office set out by 21 July 2016 how it would join up action across the government to tackle air pollution. It also asked the government to devise an overarching air quality strategy by the end of this year.
This is separate to Defra’s mandate under EU law to bring UK pollution levels below legal limits.
There is no indication the 21 July deadline has been met.
Efra’s deadline – not the first the UK has missed
The government’s silence is not an appropriate response to a public health crisis.
ClientEarth’s Healthy Air Campaigner, Andrea Lee, said: “Ignoring the advice of MPs and missing this deadline is further testimony to the government’s disregard for our health.
“Air pollution is one of the biggest threats to public health in this country. The government has been complacently ignoring deadlines for years. What will it take for them to start listening?
“We need a new UK Clean Air Act, which encompasses the strict limits in EU law and modernises the current UK law.”
Efra’s original report in April recommended measures like expanding Clean Air Zones and improving their management, giving more flexibility to local authorities to do so, incentivising consumers to buy non-diesel vehicles and addressing agricultural emissions (methane and ammonia).
Environmental lawyers ClientEarth are currently taking the government back to court over a sustained lack of action to improve air quality in the UK.
The government has so far not commented on yesterday’s missed deadline.