Recent letter from Michael Gove regarding the Clean Air Strategy;
I am writing to let you know that the government published its Clean Air Strategy for consultation on Tuesday 22 May. As I set out in my written statement to the House, air pollution is a major public health risk ranking alongside cancer, obesity and heart disease and this Strategy is the latest stage in this Government’s efforts to reduce and reverse the effects of air pollution on our health and on our natural environment.
Air pollution is generated by a wide variety of sources; fuel used for domestic heating, the application of fertilisers on agricultural land, the use of chemicals in industry, sea, rail, air and road transport among others.
This Government has already taken steps to improve our air quality with the publication of the Plan for tackling roadside emissions in July 2017. The Plan sets out how we would achieve compliance for NO2 concentrations in the shortest possible time, supported by a £3.5 billion investment to help reduce harmful NOx emissions, including £475 million to Local Authorities to enable then to develop their own air quality plans. In it we also committed to phasing out the sale of conventional diesel and petrol cars by 2040 and taking them off the road altogether by 2050. This is more ambitious than any EU requirement and puts Britain in the lead among major developed economies.
However we are acutely aware that road transport is not the sole source of air pollution and that is why we have published our comprehensive Clean Air Strategy consultation. This Strategy outlines specific steps we can all take to tackle emissions of the five most harmful air pollutants; ammonia, nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide.
The Strategy includes ambitious new goals to halve the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter are above the WHO guideline limit of 10 ug/m3. This is twice as challenging as our current EU limit of 20 ug/m3, which we are currently meeting. It also includes specific steps to ensure that only the cleanest domestic fuels will be available for sale, to manage better the use of manures and slurries on agricultural land, to ensure non-road mobile machinery is effectively policed, to introduce new primary legislation to give Local Government new powers to improve air quality and to develop a personal air quality messaging system to inform the public about the air quality forecast.
One particular pollution source which has seen an increase in recent years is domestic burning of wood and coal. This now accounts for 38% of the primary particulate matter produced in the UK and also contributes to emissions of sulphur dioxide. Particulate matter can have short and long-term health impacts and effects are amplified in vulnerable groups. However not all forms of domestic burning are equally polluting and there are a number of steps which individuals can take to drastically reduce emissions produced by their appliances, including burning properly seasoned wood, buying modern clean stoves and properly maintaining their chimneys and appliances.
The Government is not banning domestic burning or prohibiting anyone from owning or installing a stove or requiring anyone to change their stove. Instead, we will ensure that in future only cleaner stoves can be sold, pushing the industry to go further and faster than the Ecodesign regulations which will come into force in 2022. We will also ensure that only cleaner fuels can be sold, removing traditional coal from sale in favour of low-smoke alternatives and phasing out the sale of wet wood in small volumes. Cleaner fuels and stoves produce less smoke, less soot and more heat.
Emissions of all pollutants have fallen consistently since 2010 but this Strategy marks the most ambitious steps yet to accelerate our progress towards cleaner air for all.
With every good wish,
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs