It remains unclear how European air pollution limits, which are currently being breached in 37 of 43 zones within the UK, will be enforced after Britain leaves the EU, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.
The NAO has published a report into air quality in support of an unprecedented joint inquiry into the issue by four parliamentary committees.
Lillian Greenwood MP
It finds that over 85% of UK air quality zones still exceed legal pollution limits, years after a 2010 deadline for compliance, and notes that the Government currently estimates that compliance with EU nitrogen dioxide limits by all UK zones will not be achieved until 2026.
The report notes that these limits will continue in domestic law after Britain leaves the EU but that ‘it is not clear whether or how government will provide for equivalent arrangements for independent, regular review of progress and financial penalties for non-compliance’.
It adds that a key component of the Government’s latest national strategy is an expectation that 28 local authorities will implement new air quality measures to achieve compliance ‘in the shortest possible time’ but that ‘new expectations on local authorities come at a time when they are facing funding pressures’.
Lillian Greenwood MP, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: ‘It’s clear that action on air quality is needed now. Waiting for almost another decade for all parts of the UK to reach acceptable levels of air quality is a deeply disappointing prospect, and simply not good enough.
‘Road transport contributes some 80% of nitrogen oxides emissions at the roadside, which is where the UK exceeds the legal limits. Motor manufacturers are producing cleaner cars but this alone will not be enough.’
The witnesses for the joint inquiry’s first oral evidence session next week will include London mayor Sadiq Khan, local government representatives and legal and health experts. The second session on 30 November will hear from ministers from key departments.
Ms Greenwood added: ‘I look forward to hearing what local government representatives have to say to us next week, particularly in relation to the kinds of policies that are needed to accelerate the take up of new vehicles and technologies.’