Air-pollution is now a creeping threat to the public

The Environmental Audit Committee has recently announced that residents of the UK are having their health put at risk because the government is failing to meet air-pollution standards that had been set by the European Union. It is estimated by the committee that each year somewhere between £9 and £20 billion is being lost by the UK each year because of poor health due to polluted conditions.

Instead of tackling the pollution problem in the country the government is focused on tactics of delaying the fines that it faces from the EU. It is consistently managing to get the date that it has to meet deadlines pushed back but it seems that at last, if it doesn’t bring pollution to control levels, it will be heavily fined.

However, reports have recently suggested that over the past year and a half there is no real change in the pollution levels  in the UK. It is estimated that the average life expectancy is reduced by nine months in the UK because of pollution. An MP, John Walley, has said that the government is failing to take responsibility to lower pollution levels.

Long-term improvement does seem to be happening and six years ago there were many places in the country that exceeded the maximum level of pollution set by the EU. Now however London is the only city that has a pollution level above the allowed figure. The UK is entitled to 35 days every year where pollution levels can exceed the EU figure. Unfortunately, this number was exceeded back in April.

Projections from the government estimate that even by 2015 London will still not be meeting pollution requirements and it will take even longer for Greater London to meet these standards. This seems quite at odds with the government’s plan to make the Olympic Games the greenest ever.

The Department of Environment have said, “The government is currently working towards meeting the standards set by the European Union and we are making significant progress. We are investing a great deal of money to reduce pollution, especially in regard to transport. £1 billion has been set aside to encourage the use of low emission technologies and this includes vehicles.”

The government said that one of the ways it hopes to tackle pollution is by devolving the responsibility to the local authority level. Some people see this as a way for the government to pass the buck of responsibility to people lower down the chain and indeed the EU fines will probably be passed down to the devolved authorities as well.

Alan Andrews is an air quality lawyer and he has commented, “This devolution of responsibility to the local authority level is nothing more than the government passing the problem onto someone else. This is a national problem and it should be treated as such, localism is not the solution here and is just a way for the government to escape responsibility. Meanwhile, as responsibilities are delayed, the government is lobbying the EU to reduce the pollution requirements.”