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You are here: Home / The European environment – state and outlook 2010 / Country assessments / United Kingdom / Air pollution - National Responses (United Kingdom)

Air pollution - National Responses (United Kingdom)

Topics: ,
SOER Common environmental theme from United Kingdom
Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 30 Nov 2010

The UK’s main policies and measures for achieving National Emissions Ceilings and ambient air quality limit values are set out in the revised Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, published in July 2007. Responsibility for implementing these measures rests with Defra and the devolved Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (the Devolved Administrations). 

The UK is currently on course to meet its NECD 2010 emission ceilings for SO2, VOCs and NH3.  However, like many other European countries, the UK is currently projected to exceed its 2010 NOX ceiling by a small percentage with compliance expected by 2012. The situation is being closely monitored with a view to meeting the ceiling as soon as possible.

UK legislative controls on emissions to air from industrial installations have been vital to improving air quality locally, nationally and internationally. Large industrial installations (some 4,500 in the UK) are subject to integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) which requires limit values (ELVs) to be set on the basis of best available techniques for all likely significant emissions. This approach is also used in regulating air emissions for some 20,000 smaller industrial installations.

Both national and local government consider air quality issues when developing transport interventions. Current key national transport measures to improve air quality include:

·         Implementation of Euro Standards to improve vehicle fleets.

·         A Reduced Pollution Certificate scheme for lorries and buses that met the Euro V standard before it became mandatory in 2009. These provided reductions of up to £500 in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) for eligible vehicles, and by June 2009 had brought forward the emission reduction benefits of the Euro V standard for 30,677 vehicles.

·         A new Reduced Pollution Certificate scheme which will provide HGV operators with annual VED discounts of up to £500 for early compliance with the Euro VI air quality standard.  This will be awarded for five years only, to support the environmental integrity of the scheme.

·         £45m Green Bus fund to encourage uptake of low-emission buses. The money will fund in the region of 500 buses which will be in place by April 2012.

·         Making provision for over £400m for measures to promote the uptake of ultra-low carbon vehicle technologies. These include: supporting consumer incentives for electric and other low emission cars throughout the life of the current (as of 2010) Parliament; continued investment in electric vehicle recharging infrastructure (Plugged In Places); and further research and development.

·         Promoting sustainable travel measures through funding of over £140 million to support cycling and walking between 2008 and 2011. From 2011 a Local Sustainable Transport Fund will provide £560m funding over four years to local authorities to support sustainable travel.

·         A Sustainable Distribution Fund to encourage freight transport by rail, inland waterway, or sea. The scheme has a confirmed budget of £20m for 2010/11, and £20m for 2011/12 and will expect to remove around 1.5 million lorry journeys in that time.

The UK Government and Devolved Administrations recently published guidance to local authorities to promote the uptake of low emission vehicles, low emission zones and other measures. Many local authorities have introduced measures to improve local air quality, including partnerships with bus and freight operators to improve the air quality performance of buses and HGVs, and Low Emission Zones to discourage the most polluting vehicles from entering urban areas. 

Optimising synergies from energy efficiency measures, low carbon vehicles, and increased use of non-combustion renewable energy, are all beneficial to improving air quality. The scale of carbon reductions that the UK has committed to for 2050 means there should be significant co-benefits achievable for both air quality and climate change. The UK Government is considering how these can be maximised.

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The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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