Welsh Government plans to bring down illegal levels of air pollution ‘lack clarity’ and are in danger of falling short of legal requirements.
We are concerned that draft plans to bring pollution down just released by ministers don’t seem to identify measures necessary to ensure compliance with air quality standards as soon as possible.
ClientEarth Clean Air Lawyer Katie Nield said: “We will be going through the draft plans in more depth but our initial observations suggest that they lack clarity and detail. They are plans for a plan, which just set out a timetable for assessing the possible things that the government and local authorities could do. This would fall short of what the Welsh Government had itself promised the court it would deliver.
“Any plan should set out the measures that the government will take to bring air pollution to within legal limits as soon as possible, as well as a rigorous impact assessment to show that compliance is likely rather than just possible.”
In 2017, ClientEarth took legal action against the Welsh Government and the UK Government over illegal levels of NO2 in the country. In February this year, the Welsh Government agreed to produce plans detailing measures to bring down air pollution as soon as possible. The plans must be produced by 31 July.
Ahead of the draft plans, Welsh Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn announced some headline–grabbing policies, including speed restrictions on polluted stretches of road.
Nield added: “Whilst we welcome the commitment to implement some immediate mitigation measures in a limited number of pollution hotspots, it remains unclear what additional action will be taken to tackle the issue in the longer-term.
“What is also worrying is what the draft suggests about the Welsh Government’s readiness to submit a final plan by the court deadline of 31 July. According to the government’s proposed timeline, it will not have made a final decision on what measures will be adopted by this date.
“The government needs to accelerate its information gathering and impact assessment procedures to ensure that the deadline for a final plan is met. Any further delay means people in the areas of Wales with illegal and harmful levels of air pollution will suffer for longer.”
All four of Wales’ “zones” designated for the purpose of monitoring air pollution are above the legal limit for NO2, which is an annual average of 40μg/m3.
Where levels of NO2 are illegal in towns and cities, the biggest contributor is diesel vehicles.
ClientEarth lawyers will continue to look carefully at the draft plans.