NO2 Air Quality Plan (UK)

A statutory UK Plan for tackling roadside emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is published today. The documents are here.

NO2 air quality standards are set out in the following laws (implementing EU air quality standards, which give effect to World Health Organisation – WHO – air quality guidelines – found in ENV Air in the Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers and Checklists) :

– The Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010

– The Air Quality Standards (Scotland) Regulations 2010

– The Air Quality Standards Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010

– The Air Quality Standards (Wales) Regulations 2010

The UK 2017 Air Quality Plan (NO2) has the following components:

(1) there is to be a national framework setting out the steps that local authorities need to take (no details in the Plan)

(2) there is to be financial support to enable local authorities to develop and implement their plans

• £255m Implemention Fund, for feasibility studies and local plan development and delivery – £40 million immediately

• Clean Air Fund, for local authority bids for additional money to support the implementation of measures to improve air quality. This could include interventions such as improvements to local bus fleets, support for concessionary travel and more sustainable modes of transport such as cycling, or infrastructure changes. These interventions could enable local authorities to avoid the imposition of restrictions on vehicles, such as charging zones. To ensure the Fund fits the specific needs of each local area there will be a competitive process through which local authorities bid for support. Further details will be announced later in the year.

• £100 million for retrofitting and new low emission buses. As announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement, the government will provide this funding for a national programme of support for low emission buses in England and Wales, including hundreds of new low emission buses and retrofitting of thousands of older buses.

(3) local plans (produced by local authorities, local authorities already have responsibility under the Local Air Quality Management system brought in by EU law) are to be developed and implemented at pace so that air quality limits are met (presently the UK breaches air quality limits on a routine basis in some locations). Initial local plans by end March 2018. Final local plans by end December 2018. These plans will be subject to DEFRA approval, if not approved, measures will be mandated.

(4) local authorities are to consider a wide range of innovative options, exploring new technologies and seeking to support the government’s industrial strategy so that they can deliver reduced emissions in a way that best meets the needs of their communities and local businesses. 

Their plans could include a wide range of measures such as: changing road layouts at congestion and air pollution pinch points; encouraging public and private uptake of ULEVs; using innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels; and, encouraging the use of public transport. 

If these measures are not sufficient, local plans could include access restrictions on vehicles, such as charging zones or measures to prevent certain vehicles using particular roads at particular times. However, local authorities should bear in mind such access restrictions would only be necessary for a limited period and should be lifted once legal compliance is achieved and there is no risk of legal limits being breached again.

The 2017 Plan does not suggest that any or all of these obligations will be mandatory, unless the local plans prove insufficient.

(5) a new Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will allow the government to require the installation of charge points for electric vehicles at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers, and to make it even easier to use electric vehicle chargepoints across the UK. This drive towards cleaner technology and zero emission transport will be reinforced by both the Clean Growth Plan and the Industrial Strategy, including investment in science and innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

(6) checks by the pre-existing Market Surveillance Unit will be increased to ensure that new and existing vehicles on UK roads meet the standards that they were approved to. 

Also, please note the following re medium scale combustion plants :

Medium Combustion Plants (MCPs) are widely used to generate heat for large buildings (offices, hotels, hospitals, prisons) and industrial processes, as well as for power generation, and have been largely unregulated for emissions to air. In addition, there has been rapid growth in the use of generators with high NOx emissions in Great Britain which is expected to continue. 

Modelling indicates that such generators can lead to local breaches of the statutory hourly mean limit value for NO2. 

The UK and Welsh Governments consulted on new statutory measures to reduce emissions from MCPs and generators in 2016 with a view to introducing emission controls in England and Wales from the end of 2018, to improve air quality. The response to the consultation, published on 11 July 2017, sets out the controls which will be introduced into legislation by the end of 2017.

Scotland and Northern Ireland consulted in 2016 and 2017 respectively on measures to reduce emissions from MCPs within the same timescale as England and Wales, and sought views on controlling emissions from generators.

Also, new diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned in the UK from 2040 in a bid to tackle air pollution, the government has announced. This is a separate pledge