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MPs to look at Defra's role in tackling air quality

22 October 2015

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into air quality in the UK.

Defra has a vital role in ensuring that all individuals in the UK can breathe clean air. The Department is currently consulting on how the UK can meet EU Directive requirements for limiting emissions of nitrogen dioxide. But it also has a wider role in tackling the harmful levels of many other pollutants emitted by the transport, energy and industrial sectors as well as from households and farming.

Neil Parish, Chair of the Committee, stated:

"Airborne pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, particulates and sulphur dioxide damage people's health and the UK's environment. But the UK is failing to meet EU air pollution limits.

Defra has to set out by the end of the year its plans for ensuring that the UK will comply with EU nitrogen dioxide limits. We will explore how effectively the Department's plans, including for Clean Air Zones, will reduce this key pollutant. But we also want to explore how well Defra is leading action to tackle air pollution more widely, whether from the transport, industry or farming sectors."

Terms of reference

The Committee invites written submissions by Monday 23 November on the following issues:

Defra's role

  • Do Defra's proposals for reducing emissions of key pollutants, including NO2, go far enough and fast enough to meet EU standards?
    • Do Defra and/or other central government departments need to intervene more directly, via regulatory or fiscal incentives to reduce emissions from transport or energy use for example?
  • How effectively does Defra collaborate with and co-ordinate action with local authorities, devolved administrations, and other government departments to develop coherent strategies for reducing emissions of key air pollutants?
    • Do Defra's plans correctly identify and support the role of local authorities in reducing air pollution?

Transport emissions

  • Are the correct incentives in place to support consumers and businesses in reducing transport emissions, for example to move away from diesel and petrol vehicles towards low emission options or to promote other forms of transport?
    • Do recently highlighted disparities between laboratory and real-world emissions from vehicles mean that Defra should remodel the assumptions behind its plans to meet EU requirements?

Industrial emissions

  • How robust is Defra's regulation, via the Environment Agency, for monitoring and reducing air pollution generated by industrial processes?

Farming emissions

  •  Are Defra's policies for reducing emissions of key pollutants and greenhouse gases from the agricultural sector sufficiently ambitious and robust? What more needs to be done by Defra and/or the agricultural sector?

Notes on submission of evidence

Written submissions for this inquiry should be submitted via the link on inquiry page.
The deadline is midday on Monday 23 November 2015. As a guideline submissions should state clearly who the submission is from e.g. ‘Written evidence submitted by xxxx' and be no longer than 2000 words, please contact the Committee staff if you wish to discuss this.

Submissions must be a self-contained memorandum in Word or Rich Text Format (not pdfs). Paragraphs should be numbered for ease of reference, and the document should, if possible, include an executive summary.

Submissions should be original work, not previously published or circulated elsewhere. Once submitted, your submission becomes the property of the Committee and no public use should be made of it unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. Please bear in mind that Committees are not able to investigate individual cases.

Publishing submissions

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written evidence it receives, either by publishing it on the internet or by making it publicly available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure; the Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act.

You can also contribute to the debate on Twitter @CommonsEFRA

Further information

Image: PA